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Opinion

Mishal’s Top 5 Things Learned Watching Wrestling During A Pandemic

Mishal picks wrestling back up during a pandemic–and man is it different! See how different it’s been for him…

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Randy Orton vs Edge WWE WrestleMania 36

Mishal picks wrestling back up during a pandemic–and man is it different! See how different it’s been for him…

I picked an odd time to get back into the world of professional wrestling.

The last time I was properly invested in this world or even published an article on this site was well back in late 2018, at time that doesn’t seem all that long ago but, in that period, has flipped almost everything right onto its head. Whether we look at the mainstream WWE product itself, the ever-impressive rise of NXT, the birth of AEW to arguably the company’s most substantial competition since the early 2000’s or the current circumstance of our planet & the pandemic we now face as a society. Of all the changes, the latter is probably the most noteworthy and is the basis for what the article is based on.

Facing the global pandemic for the coronavirus (or COVID-19, take your pick) has affected so much more than simple television viewing, and in no way is any of this to position the state of professional wrestling over the state of the lives of so many people during this time of crisis. It’s a time when everything we love or hold dear is different, maybe even non-existent for the time being, and like anything else professional wrestling fans such as myself are looking in on an industry being presented like never before.

I’ve been watching wrestling since I can remember. Since the fondest days of the Monday Night War all the way to now, where most of what we’re used to seeing has been stripped away from weekly programming. Wrestling isn’t what it once was, and likely won’t be the same for a long time like so many other things but it’s given me a good chance to look at the business from an angle I’d likely never see if not for the circumstances. With what’s usually considered the heart of each show, the fans, watching wrestling every week has taught me a few things about what makes a show like this special, and I thought I’d break down what sticks out.

5. Everything feels quicker

 To start of simply, the pacing of almost every wrestling show has been flipped upside down, whether for better or worse is your own personal call, but the manner in which things flow has certainly changed a great deal. Without a live audience it’s clear operating things under the same pattern as before would crush any momentum, so every company and the business has forced changes to how we know a wrestling product to be.

Promos are no longer overly long & crammed to the brim with too much content to actually care about, entrance are a third their length due to smaller production stages, rather than have an audience cover it up with a noise the impact of every punch & kick is felt with great physicality & the role of managers or having personalities around ringside has been more pivotal than ever before.

4. Match lengths

We all love a good, long professional wrestling match, or any lengthy contest from any kind of action-based sport for that matter. Whether it’s wrestling, mixed martial arts or boxing, a lengthy contest is what a lot of fans pay their money to see. The longer the match, the more grueling the action generally gets, it draws the crowd investment to new heights as the intensity surges & as a result it gives the competitors more energy to feed off of as they fight on. However, wrestling in an arena with no crowd, is an entirely different story.

If there’s one thing we’ve learnt from the last month or so, it’s that under these circumstances, it’s that sometimes-performing matches ranging above 30 minutes in an arena with no audience isn’t always the smartest idea. Without an audience presence the focus of your match no longer hinges on the fans sat in the audience, but is now re-directed to what’s going on in the ring, and unless completely warranted through effective storytelling, the performance you put in may not be enough to hold the viewers watching through their screens.

Edge vs Randy Orton from Wrestlemania, the AEW World Title bout between Jon Moxley & Jake Hager and the supposedly ‘final’ encounter between Johnny Gargano & Tomasso Ciampa pose the perfect examples of how length can work in your favour, and in the latter’s case against it. Edge & Randy Orton managed to hold interest not just due to it being the most well thought out & fascinating storyline for the first part of the year but also the nostalgia of having the ‘Rated-R Superstar’ back in a ring for the first time in 9 years and as a result despite still having my own issues with the final product, mostly warranted the 40-minute length it ended up going. Gargano & Ciampa however, had very little going for them in terms of stakes. The storyline possessed the aura of being completely forced from the setup it received at the NXT: Takeover show prior, as well as being an unnecessary chapter to a rivalry that was well past its expiry date and ended at the perfect time & place.

On the other hand, you have Moxley & Hager’s AEW bout which simply overstayed its welcome due to a simple lack of tension, as well as the clear hindrance in Hagger’s ability to hold a match longer than 15 minutes due to his arsenal not being the most diversified in the sport. It certainly had its moments but felt more like a chore than a piece of entertainment.

While I’m by no means inciting that every match should be relegated to being below the 15-minute mark (since other matches like Bryan vs Cesaro on Smackdown & Omega vs Guevara on Dynamite were all wonderfully executed) it’s pretty clear that the creative teams are working within a limited field creatively, and since their storytelling will struggle to expand itself for a little while, maybe following the mindset of ‘quantity over quality’ isn’t the wisest approach for the time being. Sometimes short & simple is all this sport needs.

 3. Wrestling is a cinematic experience

I think being held up in the mindset that you’re watching a ‘real’ sport or seeing competition in front of a live audience places us wrestling fans in a different place of perception. We’re constantly in the framework of what we’re watching being something legitimately competitive, like basketball or football when what we’re actually watching, is more like a blockbuster. Not to say there isn’t a competitive element to wrestling, just not the same as other sports worldwide. Wrestling is a collision of larger-than-life personalities, storylines, presentation & action all for the purpose of encapsulating the audience to the furthest extent, much like what todays biggest blockbusters are to most of us.

Wrestlemania in particular gave us a return to the more ‘cinematic’ style of wrestling, much in the spirit of ‘Broken’ Matt Hardy facing Jeff Hardy back in the summer of 2016. Matches such as the Boneyard Match between Undertaker & AJ Styles or the Firefly Funhouse between John Cena & Bray Wyatt weren’t just beautifully produced or well thought out, these were matches that encapsulated the absurdity of the industry while also making them cool enough to something truly memorable that also shifts the characters forward in a new direction. Removing those matches from the confines of an arena gave the creative teams of both brands something truly unique to work with, as a result delivering (in my opinion) the two best matches from the overall show by a mile. If there’s anything this period will teach wrestling fans looking back, it’s that the more creative a product gets the more memorable it becomes, especially in this industry. If only it wouldn’t have taken a pandemic to make a company like WWE in this case realize that.

2. Wrestling promos are weird

 Let’s face it, wrestling promos, they aren’t exactly Shakespeare. They aren’t exactly the kind of thing most generations will quote on a whim when they want to stand out among the crowd. However, they always have one saving grace, the paying audience.

Having a paying audience live for a wrestling promo generally saves us from the cringe-inducing dialogue so many wrestlers have to spout on a weekly basis, whether heel or babyface. Their reactions, interactions amongst each other or investment in the product tends to alleviate just how awkward some of these promos truly are. The likes of John Cena, The Rock, Steve Austin, Randy Savage, Chris Jericho, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes & CM Punk to name a few haven’t just been made just due to their ridiculous passion behind their line delivery, but their respective audience of fans that hinge onto almost every word. And without the audience, promos have gotten a bit strange at the moment.

Promos under the global pandemic haven’t been all terrible, the likes of Bray Wyatt, Edge, John Cena, Becky Lynch & Asuka in WWE have held their own at this time but the same can’t be said for the likes of Braun Strowman, who’s promos aren’t exactly their standout trait. Without a paying audience there to provide some form of reaction it seems like someone like Braun just doesn’t seem like the imposing force he generally is. The content of his promos has been generally weak and failed to reflect the kind of character he should truly be, this also applies to other stars such as Shinsuke Nakamura, Lana or King Corbin who have used the crowd as a crutch to their characters for the longest of times to garner a reaction. It’s just a pretty stark reminder of the importance of a live audience & the advantages they could provide in a form of entertainment such as this one, where they’re just as big a part of your story as the characters within them.

1. It’s an incredibly strange time to be a fan

As mentioned earlier, the creative chops of WWE or other companies are finally flaring, more than they have over the past number of years in fact. Despite the unfortunate scenario we’re in at the moment, it’s placed products & companies in quite the predicament, one in which they’ve essentially been forced to adapt to their surroundings and put on a show unlike any we’ve ever seen. The lack of audience doesn’t mesh well to some, admittedly I do find it distracting at points, at the very least however it’s brought out a new spirit in the creative team that seems to be doing something fans clamor for all the time, try new things & take risks!

Whether that be the more cinematic matches, hysterically over-the-top evenings such as Steve Austin’s 3:16 day celebration, matches that spill all over the arena, debuts being presented in dozens of different manners or being able to feel the true impact of each individual match. It’s a bizarre but incredible time to be watching any wrestling product, whether that’s WWE, AEW or even TNA, to witness companies continue to put on shows solely for the cameras and viewers at home is surreal but also wonderful knowing that this is something we’ll likely (or hopefully) never see again.


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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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