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Mitchell’s WWE Backstage Report! (3/31/20)

Backstage makes a live return!



WWE Backstage 2020

Backstage is back, ALL RIGHT!♫

WrestleMania is coming and WWE Backstage won’t stay down any longer! What will Renee Young and Booker T have in store before Mania Weekend?


Renee is here via video call!

WWE Backstage has to take a different format, but hopefully everyone else is snug and safe in their homes, too. Renee introduces the other hosts available via video chat, it’s Booker T, Mark Henry and Paige! It is GOODT to see everyone, even at a distance. And huge news for this already “too big for one night” WrestleMania! Fox Sports is teaming with the WWE to bring the world the WrestleMania Preshow at 6 PM Eastern this Saturday and Sunday! And on Fox Sports PPV as well as the WWE Network, of course, will be THE WrestleMania event from 7 PM Eastern.

But with just days left, it was Paul Heyman who had the last words on the last Raw before WrestleMania Weekend! Heyman promises that this year, Drew McIntyre walks into WrestleMania special, but walks out “Just like everybody else: nothing more than Brock’s bi*ch.” How fired up is everyone for this WWE World Championship match now? Paige says McIntyre’s journey is very inspiring. From Vince’s Chosen One to the Three Man Band, to being released from the WWE to returning via NXT. Then McIntyre moves to Raw, wins the Men’s Royal Rumble and chooses to go after Brock Lesnar! “That’s huge for him!” Paige is VERY excited, and Heyman’s promo tearing McIntyre down actually builds him up as the star he is.

Renee knows that’s “Promo 101” as the panel has said for Promo School. You build up the opponent just so you can bring him down. Booker’s thoughts on Paige bringing up 3MB, that made him think of Jermaine Jackson’s “Let’s Get Serious.” Lesnar VS McIntyre is getting there, and both guys better take this unique WrestleMania serious. This is a moment because the focus has to be very different than ever before. Renee says having McIntyre on Backstage, talking about that focus, McIntyre said he never takes days off. McIntyre finds ways to keep moving forward, so how does Henry see Mania going?

Henry says this will bring out the true performer in everyone on the show, not just Lesnar and McIntyre. Everyone now has to project to the audience at home. The cameras are now the eyes of the fans that you need to play to. A lot of people take that for granted, being able to play to the audience just by showing up. But that’s not the case this year. There is no crowd to feed off of, the talent now has to almost overwork themselves for the sake of the people at home. Paige knows the feeling of starting with very small crowds to then very large crowds, but absolutely no crowd is crazy. But she also feels the talent in the WWE today has what it takes to adapt and do well. Booker adds that is the subtle beauty of this year’s WrestleMania.

Renee turns things to Edge turning Randy Orton’s words against him. The Rated R Superstar told The Viper that he dug himself a new hole. This time, Edge won’t help Orton out of it. Edge vows to bury Orton so far down that hole, he’ll never get out! Christian provides his thoughts with a video message. The Backstage Buddha speaks on the Orton VS Edge build, specifically the great promos back and forth. The word that pops into Christian’s mind: Passion. Having no audience has actually helped enhance the passion behind the promos for both men. It shows the talent of both men to give promos that still get us to hang on every word. “Grit” has also been thrown around, and Christian likes that both men have different definitions of that word.

Christian notes that Edge said exactly what everyone on Backstage has been saying: This IS the best work from Randy Orton ever, and it really did take Edge to bring it out of him. The feud is personal and it is money. Orton and Edge have built something. Sometimes, a match can be bigger than any title and this is one of those times. Christian can’t wait and is sure we can’t, either. So be sure to stay in, stay safe, and watch both nights of WrestleMania Weekend!

Back to the panel, Henry notes Edge’s promo was great. Edge has always been one of the best cerebral performers, and can find ways to reach you with just talking. Now Edge has proven he still has it. He was gone just long enough that people don’t remember, or maybe never saw Edge before period, and surely not the way we’re seeing him now. Edge is better than ever, and this is an eye-opening moment for fans that another major player is back. Edge can put Orton in check, and it’s been some time since that’s happened. Renee agrees, fans new to Edge are in for a treat. Booker wants to quickly point out Christian had an entire wall of pictures, of himself. Did anyone else see that?

Renee moves the talk to another killer promo in The Undertaker finally responding to AJ Styles. “You stepped in something now that there’s no coming back from.” Styles will pay the price for disrespecting Michelle, and he will Rest In Peace. What does Booker say to Taker’s list of greats including him? Booker admits he’s been around. But that Taker promo wasn’t the Dead Man per se, but just a man talking to another man about what’s coming. This time is bringing the best out of everyone, and Styles and Taker are going to bring the best out of each other for another moment that we all remember for the rest of our lives. Styles may not remember this Mania being all that good, and Booker admits to knowing what that’s like, too. But in the end, this is one for the ages to have.

Paige speaks on how personal this has gotten. To take a page out of Samoa Joe’s book there, making things personal is very relatable. But to speak on the promos themselves, Paige knows for herself that doing a promo, whether in front of people or just the camera, digging deep to get that emotion out is so hard. But Taker, Edge, Orton, Styles, they all do it so well! Renee agrees, even going so far as to included Seth Rollins, and how it’s those really tight, close-up shots or going backstage. Everyone has adapted really well this past week, it’s great stuff. Henry adds that Styles will see the inside of a coffin, just like he once did. The future is not bright for Styles, but very dark and quiet. Styles also will receive an eye-opening moment.

Henry has faced legend after legend, but Taker was so different. Being even just a few feet away, you couldn’t hear anything because of the thunderous crowd. Like an airplane engine! It rattles you. If you don’t weather the storm early, it gets you. This match might go quicker than we think. Well someone who doesn’t get rattled is Charlotte Flair, who will also join Backstage via video, after the break.


WWE Backstage returns with The Queen!

Charlotte Flair joins Renee and Paige in discussing her path back to WrestleMania. Looking back at last year, what are some lasting moments from that historic Women’s Triple Threat Winner Takes All, the first women’s main event of a WrestleMania? Charlotte says it’s crazy that it’s already been a year. The one thing going through her mind all day was, “This is what it feels like to say you’re going to do something and do it.” Thinking of the performance, she stuck to her game plan that got her there. The pressure of the main event might make someone else do more, but Charlotte knows who she is and just sets out to do things her way. The moment was bigger than just Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Ronda Rousey, it sent a message worldwide. That is Charlotte’s main takeaway.

Paige says she has chills just listening to Charlotte right now. She is so proud of the Queen, because of how they both came up in FCW, and how Charlotte mistook eye cream for foundation. They’ve come so far. But WrestleMania was big last year, but that wasn’t Charlotte’s only Mania Moment. What would Charlotte say is her biggest Mania Moment so far? Her first one? The one where she realized eye cream isn’t foundation? Charlotte says her match with Asuka was probably even bigger. Sure, WrestleMania 32 was a success, and WrestleMania 33 was special because it was the same stadium that Ric Flair retired in. But WM34, title VS streak, that was something Charlotte had to prove. Asuka is accomplished around the world, and Charlotte was “a good performer,” but that night put her on that next level.

Renee talks about performances and brings up the promos with no crowds. How does that lack of crowd change Charlotte’s approach? Charlotte agrees with Henry from earlier that it’s about playing to the home audience. If you can’t feed off an audience, you have to take the opportunity to show everyone that you have that reserve. If you can’t pull from your own emotions, that’s a problem. Paige agrees and loves it. Paige also turns the topic to how WrestleMania really is a weekend, never been done before! Does Charlotte think that changes Mania much?

Charlotte admits that sometimes Mania feels like two days anyway. But this will be a great opportunity, too. More people will be able to be on the main card, and it might just give the talent more time for their matches. There’s more room to breathe as opposed to cramming story and match. There are stories that need to be told, ended or even new ones started, and giving Mania two days only helps everyone. And it shows how big Mania has become because it has to be two days. Unbelievable and historic, indeed, and every exciting to see how WWE adapts to the times.

Speaking of adapting, the rise of NXT that Charlotte helped build has reached even greater heights! The NXT Women’s Championship on Mania, Rhea Ripley defending against Charlotte, what can we expect? Charlotte says that thinking of NXT, she thinks back to watching the first ever TakeOver, and watching Paige VS Emma. She remembers wanting to pick up from that match and taking the lead. Charlotte feels like Rhea challenging Charlotte to challenge her is a way of saying, “Hey, NXT is THE third brand and we’re all equal.” Credit where credit is due, that takes a lot of confidence to do. This is a huge opportunity for NXT. NXT took Survivor Series so this is another opportunity for NXT to show how big it really is and show it deserves the same respect.

Charlotte coming full circle to compete for the NXT Women’s Championship blows her mind, and Paige’s. Plus, the NXT Women’s Championship on Mania is made even more historic because it involves the Women’s Rumble winner in Charlotte Flair. That’s the real mind-blowing part, because for decades, a Rumble winner has chosen Raw or SmackDown. Now it’s NXT. That just shows how big WWE has gotten, and how big the brand that was once FCW has become. Renee notes the magnitude of how big that is, for the company, the brand, the title and for Rhea and Charlotte themselves, it’s no wonder those two are going to “beat the hell out of each other.” Paige can’t even fathom how to prepare for that. Rhea is a star but Charlotte will elevate her even higher.

Charlotte says this is how crazy it is for Rhea. When NXT UK opened up just last year, Charlotte went there to speak to the talent. It was Charlotte, Finn Balor and Triple H who visited. Rhea was in the crowd and Charlotte called her out when she said, “You can do anything you put your mind to.” And here Rhea is a year later, walking into Mania as the NXT Women’s Champion. Charlotte went back and looked over Rhea’s career. The Mae Young Classic, the NXT UK Women’s Championship and now the NXT Women’s Championship, Rhea performs very well under pressure. And that pressure is something Rhea should want, just as Charlotte does. That pressure is what pushed Charlotte to the next level, so hopefully the pressure propels Rhea, too. Renee wishes Charlotte best of luck, but will Charlotte become 11-time women’s champion when she rides the Riptide?


WWE Backstage returns with a WrestleMania Watch With!

Mark Henry and Booker are back, and join Renee in reliving the third part of the Stone Cold VS The Rock WrestleMania trilogy! This is WrestleMania XIX, aka WM19, all the way back in 2003! Ready, set, roll film!

What Henry and Booker remember of the build was that Booker got to main event that night and was a bit too busy to watch. The crowd is electric for just the entrances, and making entrances in that environment is so different. Taker told Booker that sometimes, you gotta stop and feel that moment. The Rock knows that from experience, so it surely felt great for him, too. Renee has heard that advice a lot, too. What was the moment to revel in for each of them? Henry says his was getting his gear out and just realizing he is living a moment that will never come again. Being part of Mania isn’t a promise. You have to live in the moment of that one. So Henry was grateful to even have had one moment.

The glass breaks and everyone enjoys Stone Cold’s entrance. Booker was always jealous of the entrance because it pumps you up. Fan or wrestler, you wanted to be like Austin. Renee instantly perks up when she hears that glass break, too. Henry says that Austin is someone you can’t help but like, even when he’s being the baddest guy in the ring. The glass gives you the chills and you fire up. Booker says that both Stone Cold and The Rock, WM19 is a hard match because they’re two of the most iconic men in the WWE ever. Fans are divided because you want to vote for both. This is poetry in motion. And to think WM19 is the final entrance for Austin as an active WWE wrestler. Watching Austin move, you can see the trouble he has moving from nerve issues and pain in the knees.

The bell rings on the match and the two icons stare down. And then they start throwing hands! Booker knew Austin down in Texas as “the ultimate technician,” a truly incredible pure wrestler. Austin obviously evolved as he throws hands on The Rock against the ropes, as the “badass ass kicker” we all know and love. Booker says that was by necessity as Austin whips but The Rock reverses to swing a clothesline. Austin kicks low but The Rock denies a Stunner and bails out. Austin pursues and clotheslines him at the ramp! Henry likes that “Uh oh moment” where The Rock narrowly avoided the Stunner. Austin brings The Rock over and bumps him off railing right in front of the fans, then CHOPS him.

Booker loves the fans being so fired up as Austin bumps The Rock off steel steps. Austin CHOPS The Rock more. No one did it better than Austin, even with all the damage he took. Austin drags Rock to snake eyes him on the barriers, then CLOBBER him over the announce desk! Commentary clears out as Henry notes that no wrestler wants to show fans they’re other than what they are. Henry says Booker is much the same, and knows Booker’s still got it. Austin pursues The Rock and keeps him out of the ring to snake eyes him on more barriers! And then the steel steps!

Henry admits that when he got to a point where he couldn’t do what he used to do, he started to doubt. But Austin never did, and was still Stone Cold. But even Austin knew he wouldn’t look this good a year or two down the road, so that is when he started the transition. Austin puts The Rock in the ring and stomps away on him! Renee asks Booker and Henry about The Rock and being behind the scenes. Austin chokes The Rock as Booker notes that working with Rock “was an experience.” You get in there and realize you need to take it up another notch. Austin back suplexes The Rock high and hard! Cover, TWO! Booker remembers the stories about MC Hammer, being told to tone it down and responding with, “No, I gotta pump it up!”

Austin brings Rock up and whips him corner to corner as Booker notes going against icons like those two, you have no choice but to bring your A Game. Just look back at Austin VS Booker in the grocery story. Austin whips The Rock corner to corner again, then again. The Rock reverses but Austin comes out to LARIAT! Henry notes this was also a time of transition for The Rock. The Rock was going Hollywood and filming Walking Tall. Austin chokes The Rock on the ropes but the ref backs him off. Austin argues with the ref, but The Rock chop blocks Austin’s legs! Renee sends WWE Backstage to break, but promises there will be more WrestleMania watch-along when we return.


WrestleMania Watch With continues!

The Rock now has Austin on the defensive, and he gives him another chop block! Henry points out the attack on the legs. That’s smart strategy given Austin’s bad knees. The Rock puts Austin on the desk to SMASH the knee on the monitors! Booker says that’s the “Bobby Bowden clip.” The Rock stomps Austin around the way. Renee asks how working matches in a feud, what are some of the psychological tips for a third match like this? Booker says the first thing is, “We’ve been here before.” The Rock stomps away on Austin’s legs as Booker says that the familiarity already tells both wrestlers what they need to do the next time.

Again, The Rock and Stone Cold know the business, they know just about every aspect to this, and the key is to go and “create pandemonium.” The key is to instill a feeling fans haven’t felt before. The Rock slams Austin’s legs against the apron! He drags Austin to the post and brings it up the middle! Booker notes that The Rock can make a spit-punch into something so big, that’s the sign of a true puppet master. Renee notes how the fans are turning on The Rock because of how he’s playing the Heel. Henry says another thing that people might not realize, but Jim Ross was perhaps at his best calling this match and telling the story. Austin rallies back with haymaker after haymaker and then a whip. The Rock kicks back then kicks the bad leg out!

The story telling in this match is incredible. JR deserves as much credit and respect for this match as the two men in the ring. The Rock smashes Austin’s knee and then puts on his version of the Sharpshooter! Renee notes how much JBL helped Booker with his commentary chops to help propel stories forward. Booker agrees, it takes a multitude of guys to pull things like this off. But The Rock making his transition, he is still the most beloved wrestler in this business. And still being able to flip a switch and get people to dislike him is truly what makes the business. Austin gets the ropebreak and The Rock undoes the Sharpshooter, only to drag Austin out to the apron and throw hands. The Rock drags Austin to a corner as the ref reprimands. The Rock scares the ref off with a show of the backhand!

Renee notes that the same kind of turn is notable in Austin VS Bret Hart. What does that feel like to mentally prepare yourself for when the crowd turns? Booker loved it, being both good guy and bad guy. But there is of course a huge difference in the two roles, though obviously the Face gets more praise. The Rock takes it to a new level as he grabs Austin’s vest and puts it on. But if you’re the ultimate Heel, you revel in it, and The Rock was able to do that. The Rock shows so by dumping a bunch of water on his head and then splashing everyone around him.

The Rock struts to the ring but Austin is on him with haymakers! Henry says that’s what makes The Rock The Rock. He could poke fun at himself just as much as the other wrestlers. Austin whips but The Rock reverses, only for Austin to dodge and lariat back! Henry points that exchange out as both men are down, this is a well disguised breather break for them. This is the halfway point, give or take, so you need the break to make it the rest of the way. Booker loves that The Rock still has the vest on. The Rock throws hands but Austin counter punches! Austin whips to swing a back hand but The Rock dodges, only to run into Austin’s Thesz Press! Booker says that is the art of being a great worker, and no one else did it like those two. Henry can’t help but agree.

Austin runs to drop his double dirty bird elbow! Cover, TWO!! Henry notes that this match here, Austin VS The Rock at WM19, stacks up against all the other great matches in Mania history. And that includes Andre VS Hogan at WM3, as much as it did for WrestleMania as an event. This match, though, is just as pivotal because of two undeniable Mount Rushmore of Wrestling members going head to head. Booker agrees with that. Austin stomps a mudhole, flips off the ref and then stomps some more. Austin whips The Rock but The Rock dodges and ducks to LEAPING LARIAT! And kips up! Fans fire up and Booker again says this is truly what the business is. The Rock fires up but turns around into Austin stealing The Rock Bottom! Cover, TWO!!

Henry loves that the gap between stealing the move and going for the pin, Austin sells his knees. This is just masterful, all the nuances and subtleties. Henry could watch this match over and over and find new things in it. Austin waits for The Rock to stand, but The Rock blocks the Stunner to STEAL the Stunner!! And everyone loves that the fans go wild. The Rock crawls to the cover, TWO!! “A thing of beauty.” And this is already about 20 minutes. Both men are on adrenaline and the fans’ reaction. It’s like extra oxygen or gas. The Rock throws those signature haymakers, then gives double dirty birds, only to swing into the STUNNER! The Rock really sells, too! Henry says The Rock was always the best at that. Renee says Byron Saxton from a couple weeks ago is pretty good.

Austin rises first and looms over The Rock. The ref argues with him, but Austin pushes the ref away. This allows The Rock to LOW BLOW! The Rock knows the fans saw it but it doesn’t matter what they saw! And now The Rock stands over Austin and he prepares the most electrifying move in pro-wrestling! The People’s Elbow MISSES! Austin wants a Stunner but is denied, to a SPINE BUSTER! Off comes the vest, and the other elbow pad, to another try… PEOPLE’S ELBOW! Cover, TWO!!! Booker knows fans knew this wasn’t the end yet still felt it might have been. You set the hook and bait the fish in! Henry says the one thing different about this year’s Mania, the false finish(es) really only work when fans can fall for it. The Rock hits the ROCK BOTTOM! Cover, TWO!! Another example right there.

The Rock waits for Austin to rise. Booker notes that a lot of the crowd excitement is from being conflicted. The fans don’t want Austin to win, and they don’t want The Rock to lose, badum tsh. But Renee says it really is magical when you don’t know how to feel. Austin slowly gets up, The Rock intensely glares all around, and fans reach a fever pitch. Austin fights off the Rock Bottom, but then turns around INTO A ROCK BOTTOM! Cover, TWO!!! “Look at his eyes!” Booker knows the wrestling part is one thing, but the theatrics is another. You need to take the fans on a ride they will remember forever. That is this match!

The Rock waits for Austin to rise again, and it takes a bit longer than before. The Rock grabs Austin, takes a dramatic pause, and then hits ANOTHER ROCK BOTTOM! Cover, The Rock wins! Again, masterful story telling from two living legends. And The Rock was forever thankful for Austin giving that final match. In fact, The Rock reflected and posted an Instagram video about it! “This was his last match, Stone Cold Steve Austin. And when I mean his last match, I mean literally his last match.” The very last match of Austin’s career. No one but they knew it, and it still gives The Rock goosebumps. “I hit him with three Rock Bottoms,” and that was the appropriate level needed to win against The Texas Rattlesnake.

Rock remembers whispering, “I thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me. I love you.” Austin replied with, “I love you, too.” Rock gave Austin a slap on the chest and left the ring. Austin retired that night, and it was truly unforgettable. Renee says WM19 was a great match and an end of an ear, so to speak. But this is not the end of WWE Backstage! Another icon steps back into the ring this WrestleMania Weekend! Is John Cena in for the fight of his career?


WWE Backstage returns with the full panel!

Paige returns, and Renee notes Cena’s return to SmackDown this Friday and WrestleMania this weekend. What does everyone want to see out of the 16-time world champion when he faces The Fiend? Henry says he isn’t sure what we’ll see, but he also knows this is the first-ever Firefly Fun House match. He is very curious as to what that will be. Booker adds that, as JBL used to put it, “Big Match John” Cena is going to show up and perform. And who better to face than Bray Wyatt right now? The Fiend character is something people are already comparing to The Undertaker, in that we’ll be watching for years to come.

Becky VS Shayna is also happening for the Raw Women’s Championship, how does that one look? Paige loves Shayna and promises to keep this short and sweet. Paige thinks Shayna takes the title! The Glampire apologizes to her buddy, Becky, but it’s time for a change! Booker is still on the fence as far as Shayna, but he’s ready for Shayna to prove him wrong! Henry tops it off by saying he also wants to see the title change hands. And with that, Backstage wraps, ready for anything and everything this two-night WrestleMania will bring!



My Thoughts:

First, just because this article is publishing on April Fool’s Day doesn’t mean this is a joke. There really was a new WWE Backstage episode during these troubled times. Being via video was fine for the panel of hosts, but why was most of the video recaps in the same Skype call quality? Just an odd thing to note. But it was great to have Charlotte on to speak to her Mania matches, and I figured she’d go with her match against Asuka as her personal number one moment. And I like that even Backstage was consistent with the other live WWE programming in replaying a classic match to fill time.

I myself never got to watch the days of The Rock VS Stone Cold growing up, and just haven’t had/taken the time to go back through those classic moments. Maybe I should. But seeing it for the first time, even as part of that watch party with Renee, Booker and Henry, obviously it’s an amazing match. I appreciate the panel being optimistic for WM36 with it being split up, but also can tell it’s them sticking to the WWE marketing line. Mania wasn’t so big that it had to be two nights, it had to be two nights because of the global concerns. But Charlotte’s point about more time for matches and stories to breathe is still valid, so that instead of a crammed slog of 7 hours, we get two manageable 3+ hours. I think just on that pacing, this Mania will feel very strong as compared to other years.

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Mitchell’s Raw Talk Resport! (4/5/21)




WWE Raw Talk

It’s a WrestleMania Week edition of Raw Talk!

Before everything that happens at WrestleMania, Drew McIntyre, Braun Strowman and the WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions sit down for some Raw Talk!


Kevin Patrick welcomes us back to the show!

He and Xavier Woods are excited to be discussing the last Monday Night Raw before WrestleMania, and Woods starts with good news: he got another win over the PHENOMENAL AJ Styles! And now, all that’s left is for Woods and Kofi Kingston to defeat Styles & Omos at WrestleMania to retain the W, W, E, World, Tag, Team, CHAMPIONSHIPS~! Kevin says he’s making it sound too easy. Well no fight is ever easy, but if you don’t go with confidence, you’re bound to lose. A life lesson right there.

Kevin asks if Woods saw Bad Bunny and Damian Priest in the ring. That was wild. Footage replays and Woods says that he’s gotten two “sneaky pins” on Styles in a month. Woods is certain that is how and why he and Kofi will win. Then they got into the “crowd” of the ThunderDome screens to feel that energy. We’ll get that again this year, since fans are back. Kevin asks if he and Kofi are being a bit too certain accepting the match, but Woods says no one does tag team better than them as the eleven time tag team champions! They accepted because who haven’t they beat? The New Day beats you, you break up or get drafted elsewhere. So Woods & Kofi were chomping at the bit for fresh competition. Omos & Styles better have registered so we can have this match. And Woods likes to show that you don’t need to have everything to be a great sports entertainer.

Woods says if you’re not nervous before you compete in the ring, especially on a stage like WrestleMania, and especially now that fans are back, then you’re not trying. Of course there are butterflies, but the New Day have been here before. Omos hasn’t. Then what is having fans back going to be like? Clearly Woods is buzzing. He can’t wait. Wrestling is built upon the energy of the fans. You pace your breathing off the breathing of the crowd, the energy flows through everyone and you become one in a philosophical way. It was weird to not have fans. The ThunderDome is great, the closest thing to having fans. But having fans there, that will be the sweetest feeling.

Kevin brings it back to Bad Bunny. Woods talks with such great amount of respect. The respect of Bunny, Priest, Miz and Morrison, it’s nasty. A $3.6 MILLION Bugatti got defaced! WHAT?! Woods can’t believe it! That’s so bad. For Woods, if he had a $3.6 MILLION anything, and you mess it up, you’re done! Woods would end you. But Bunny says he has respect, so now he is going to knock someone’s teeth out. And as a tag match, Priest is there with Bunny, this could go either way. The Archer of Infamy long-shotting Miz & Morrison to Bunny’s music is going to be awesome.

And then, all we saw with Lashley and McIntyre tonight, talk about whetting the appetite for Saturday. Those two standing tall, Lashley’s challenge to take out McIntyre didn’t go well. Kevin called MVP out a bit on it but MVP said it wasn’t cowardly, it was business. Corbin tried to cash in but no go. Woods says that’s how it is with McIntyre, he overcomes insurmountable odds. But Lashley, this new immovable force, but now he has to put up or shut up. No Hurt Business, no one put a dent in McIntyre, this is final boss stuff. Can McIntyre overcome a man as dominant as Lashley?

We’ve seen this power from Lashley, but not on this level. Lashley is in a different zone as champion, and will be in that zone at Mania. Woods can’t be sure McIntyre can handle it. But Lashley is just spot on! Well we can ask McIntyre as one of tonight’s guests! The Scottish Warrior, the Monster Among Men and the WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions, all after a quick break!


BRAAAUN~ Strowman joins Raw Talk!

The Monster Among Men is here, Kevin says he disposed of Elias and Ryker, and the steel cage awaits. This has played out just as Braun has wanted, right? Absolutely. Shane’s thrown speedbumps at Braun, even back in November. Shane was the reason Braun got suspended for headbutting Adam Pearce, and then has dangled false opportunities over his head. Shane is just a bully. Braun’s dealt with that, he talked about that earlier. When Braun locks the cage and is in there with Shane, it’s not just Braun he’s in there with. Shane’s in there with the millions upon millions who get verbally abused for no reason. Braun didn’t deserve anything Shane’s done.

Maybe it’s because Braun’s a hard worker and deep down, Shane knows he’s lived a “posh” life and has a chip on his shoulder. Maybe Shane’s hollow inside. IT could be why he’s targeted Braun over this stuff. But Braun will do as he said, slam Shane down in the middle of the ring, and not just for his satisfaction but for everyone out there that knows you can overcome your limitations. It’s okay to be different. Braun’s been different his whole life, wanting to be normal, until he realized he never will be normal and shouldn’t have to be. He embraced what he was given, and after that, well we’ve seen what he’s done. “When you believe in yourself, other people believe in you, as well.”

Millions of fans support Braun and live, breathe and feel with Braun. The pain, the heartache. Braun is doing this for them, the ones told they’re not good enough. Braun will show the world that you can overcome the bullies and the fears in your life, and wake up that they’re on this Earth for a reason. This world wants you here, so leave your footprint on it. Woods says he noticed this transformation. He saw Braun when he debuted, he’s fought for different things over his career. So now, he’s fighting for people and their hardships, that is a different Braun.

Woods remembers destruction for the sake of destruction Braun, or for a title. But now Braun is focused on fighting for a group of people. Does Braun feel that change? How important is this to him? Is this new motivation the secret? Braun says it is. It is the outreach from his fans around the world, as well as his friends and family who have seen what he’s gone through. Braun is so big he’s breaking his chair. But Braun “isn’t supposed to be here.” In 2015, Braun ruptured discs, those cut his nerves, and he couldn’t fee his left leg. He needed emergency surgery, but the amazing medical staff here in the WWE, better than any other group anywhere, they got him to the NUMBER ONE neurosurgeon.

An hour after the surgery, Braun got up and he was walking around just fine. There was a 45% chance it wasn’t going to work, and he still only has about 80% usage of his left leg, but knowing what he’s gone through, knowing that his family has had similar situations. His aunt is a paraplegic but got the high school team to their first state championships, and these last 35 years, in a wheelchair, has taught students to be that much better. Braun’s own mother was almost killed in a car accident. Braun’s seen hard times people go through just to live their lives, and that is what has made Braun the man he is today. Braun’s own mind made him think he wasn’t going to amount to anything, but he had those pillars to lean on.

When his family could’ve given up in the harsher times they’re going through, he had to keep going. He got into the best shape in his entire life, and is inspiring more people to change their eating habits, get in shape. Braun has so many messages from people’s personal transformations. All of you give him the energy to go out there and break his body, miss moments in life, from weddings to funerals to birthdays, for YOU! If he can do it, anyone can do it!

Kevin wants to talk tactics real quick. This is still a steel cage, and Shane is brave and experience. Why a steel cage? For weeks and weeks, Braun’s tried to #GetTheseHands on Shane, but he was always out of reach. Braun is sick of chasing him down, so now the door closes and there’s nowhere to run or hide. Shane is stuck inside one of the most devastating structures in the WWE, and with the Monster Among Men. Woods is pumped up! “Two men enters! One man SURVIVES!!” Woods wants Braun to tear Shane up! Kevin wishes Braun luck, and Braun hopes Shane sleeps well because he’ll see him soon. Kevin isn’t sure he’ll sleep well, but that steel cage match happens this Saturday.


Nia Jax, Shayna Baszler & Reginald join Raw Talk!

The WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions and Nia’s “boo” are here, and Kevin is sure they’re all buzzing for WrestleMania. Nia says they are, because they handled Asuka & Rhea Ripley. Well, with a little help from the self-destruction of that team. Well, debatable, because they were probably going to win anyway. Nia is offended by “the new guy” Patrick. DO you know how long they’ve been champions? Probably the longest reigning Women’s Tag Team Champions ever, across all brands! Respect to New Day, of course. But respect from Kevin, please!

Woods brings up that there will be a Tag Team Turmoil, with a lot of teams in it, but the champs are fully confident they’ll rip the heads off of whoever. Is there a certain pair they’d rather face over the others? Or is it all equal? Well what does Shayna do best? She breaks people and brings their limbs home. Everyone in that Turmoil has the same limbs that work the same way. As far as Shayna’s concerned, it doesn’t matter. Nia is on the same page. There is a team that they have their eyes on from SmackDown. Natty & Tamina might’ve jumped Shayna while Nia wasn’t looking, but- Shayna says Nia was actually- No, shush.

Natty & Tamina have looked strong and fierce, when no one’s looking, but Tamina is also blood. Nia will not forget that Tamina is fierce, just like Natty, and is one of the veterans. Isn’t she like the #BOAT? Shayna doesn’t pay attention so she has no idea. Well out of all those teams… The Riott Squad? The longest partnered team there, and they gave Nia & Shayna good matches. Naomi & Lana? How many times will they keep getting up? Team TikTok right there, that’s all they do now. Triple T, TTT. Kevin doesn’t know what TikTok is. That might be a good thing, but shush, Patrick. And then Mandy & Dana. All teams have their little slice of whatever it is, but in the end, Nia & Shayna will walk in and walk out champs. Maybe flip out, a la Reggie. He’s not Nia’s tag partner, Shayna is!

Woods asks if Reggie will be there. Shayna doesn’t want to talk about him. He has nothing to do with this. Does he at least have wine picked out? Nia is intrigued. Just for Nia, yes. Oh, in French, even. Woods only knows omelette du fromage. Kevin asks Shayna in a singles capacity, Rhea walks in and just asks Asuka for a match for the title. What about Shayna? Yeah, Shayna’s been asking that, too! Everyone saw that Shayna can just easily kick Asuka’s teeth out. She feels disrespected? Absolutely! But to be fair, if it had been Shayna who stepped up to Asuka, Asuka would NOT have accepted because she knows what’ll happen. Rhea’s the unknown here, it’s fine. It’s the safer bet for Asuka. Shayna put Asuka out for how long? A bit. But Asuka beat Shayna back. Shayna says that doesn’t count.

Nia says that whenever THE Shayna Baszler is ready to go for the Raw Women’s Championship, she’ll go right to the source and challenge them, whoever it is, and then beat them. Shayna hopes Kevin has better questions than this. Woods asks one. When these two first became a team, it was like butting heads. Now there’s this chemistry. Why do they think this has happened? Are they getting used to each other? Or are they agreeing that no one can stop them in the tag division? What is this friendship built on?

Nia agrees they did clash before, but they’re similar that they know how dangerous they can be, and that they want gold. Once they realized that being together benefitted them more than being against each other, that brought them together as a team. And then Reggie is helping. Shayna says Reginald has nothing to do it. But it was quid pro quo. They may not like each other, but they decided to get the titles, and they have, so it worked out. Do they like each other then? They get along. Reggie confirms. They’ll surely get along on Sunday, right? Nia still wasn’t there when Shayna got jumped.

Ugh, get over it! They’re gonna walk in as champs, walk out as champs, and that’s the end of this because Kevin has crap questions! Nia storms off, Reggie follows, and Shayna says Kevin needs to work on his questions. Woods wishes them good luck at Mania as one tag team champ to another. And after the break, the Scottish Warrior will be here!


Drew McIntyre joins Raw Talk!

Kevin and Woods are excited to have McIntyre here, and Woods wants to say first, he isn’t sure if he’s ever seen McIntyre with a shirt on. What is this? It looks great! McIntyre says it does feel odd to be fully clothed. But he enjoys this shirt so much, thanks WWE Shop, and he models it. It is a soccer, or rather football, jersey style shirt, with “McIntyre 321” on the back. Y’know, football? As in you hit the ball with your feet. Not “egg chase” or whatever America does. Well what about Rugby?

Kevin is pleased to see McIntyre in good spirits after Raw. Corbin stepped up, tried to take up Lashley on his offer by taking McIntyre out, but McIntyre took care of him. The path is clear and McIntyre can win back the world title. Starting with Corbin, McIntyre says if he’s checking his jaw, that’s because an elbow from Corbin really messed up the inside of his mouth. Maybe people have forgotten, but not too long ago, McIntyre, Corbin and Lashley were rolling together and took out all sorts, like Braun. McIntyre knows Corbin well, and he’s not the kind to be messed with. You can make jokes, and there are a lot, but Corbin is big, bad and does whatever it takes. That was a physical match this close to Mania. McIntyre had to be on his game, and the Claymore always wins.

Woods adds to that by saying one of the biggest matches in McIntyre’s career, he again goes into Mania to fight for that title. Last year was Brock Lesnar, that must’ve felt incredible to climb that mountain. Now he has another mountain to climb in Lashley, a man who had three extra people at his disposal to help him in this endeavor but got rid of two because he’s that bad. Tried to get the rest of the locker room to get McIntyre but that didn’t work, either. McIntyre is at the final boss, and Woods asks if he has what it takes to win. McIntyre thinks, and says, “Yes, 100%.” Mania last year, that was the ultimate test in Brock Lesnar, “an absolute animal.” McIntyre took that opportunity to show he could beat absolutely anyone and be the top star. That was validation.

This entire year, main-eventing PPV after PPV, big matches, WWE Championship matches from Extreme Rules to Hell in a Cell, growing his confidence. McIntyre kept his eye on everything else. While McIntyre did all that, Lashley was doing the same, rising up. Lashley thought he was being clever, going under the radar, but McIntyre knew it was only a matter of time. Lashley attacked after the Elimination Chamber match, set Miz up to take the title from McIntyre, all so Lashley could take the title from Miz. McIntyre knew the logic behind that, Lashley knows he’s badass but can take Miz. Work smarter, not harder.

Lashley could get hurt facing McIntyre, so he let someone else try to take him out for him. If someone had taken McIntyre out, at least get him to 20% and injured, then Lashley could take McIntyre down that much faster and get paid the same. Didn’t work out, and now McIntyre is going into Mania at 100% against a 100% Lashley. This is a throwback match as two “elite heavyweights” go around, not just holding onto each other but throwing down and moving around. This will be entertaining and physical as hell. But it’ll be the same as tonight, BOOM! Claymore to the face, McIntyre again WWE Champion.

Kevin wants to pretend no one is watching and asks if McIntyre has any potential advantages. McIntyre says that has to be a joke, everyone’s watching Raw Talk! True. But talking about laying into each other, what does McIntyre see in Lashley that he’ll go after? MVP is in Lashley’ sear. Every time McIntyre taunts Lashley, MVP is there to keep Lashley calm. Lashley is a fighter, a warrior, has the experience. Last week, McIntyre dared Lashley to go after him, offered a free shot, and Lashley wanted to. There are few people, if any, with the combination Lashley has except for McIntyre. And this isn’t new, this isn’t the first-time-ever. They’ve fought before, they’ve paralleled each other, in and out of the company in other big matches.

But now, in this time, they’re both firing on all cylinders, they’ve both reached the top, and they’re both in the main event for the WWE Championship. It’ll be one hell of a match, but again, McIntyre got his moment last year and it wasn’t what he expected with no fans around. But 25 thousand will sound like 400 thousand at Raymond James. Woods asks about those travels, fighting in and out of the WWE and now he’s here. What does it mean for McIntyre to go through that journey and see someone across the way with that parallel? And then to meet that person on the Grandest Stage of Them All, for the greatest prize of them all, what does that feel like? “It’s indescribable.”

McIntyre’s talked a lot about Lashley and everything else, the cheap tactics and all that. But McIntyre’s seen that journey, has supported Lashley for a long time, and just wishes Lashley didn’t take the route he take to the finish line, but nonetheless, this is really cool. Two guys who have put in the work, inside and out of the ring, seeing each other in the gym, working on the mic, they know who they are now, it’s cool. To see where Lashley is, to know where McIntyre is, it’s time to show the world that they are the top of the game. Kevin is ready to see this on Saturday! Save your money on Godzilla VS King Kong, you’re getting that right here at WrestleMania!

Kevin thanks McIntyre for his time, Woods wishes him luck, and McIntyre hopes to see everyone at Mania! And with that, Raw Talk ends and hopes to see you on the episode after Mania!

My Thoughts:

A very good episode, a bit longer than normal because this is the WrestleMania go-home edition of Raw Talk, so it clocked in at 34 minutes. Braun had good passion but he also got a bit fumbly like he did on tonight’s Raw. I do like that the banner he is waving going into Mania is about persevering through hard times, especially physically. Braun continues to be this rare breed that Vince should be all in for making anything and everything to get fans onboard, but Vince just keeps missing the mark every time. But this promo here should be all the more reason Braun wins over Shane at Mania.

Nia & Shayna had good stuff, and I do like that they’re both reluctant to admit they’ve got good chemistry and banter and all this other stuff that’s very “buddy movie,” where at first they clash but they learn to respect the other and work together. Who knows if they stop being that with WrestleMania, but I do like that Nia praised Natty & Tamina for stepping up. Maybe we get Nia & Shayna VS Natty & Tamina, maybe we get the Riott Squad again, but I feel like one of the SmackDown teams really need to get these titles to freshen things up.

McIntyre also had a great segment, naturally, and it was great for him to reference continuity where yes, he, Corbin and Lashley were these three giants who for whatever reason were teaming together over and over. That never went anywhere, but it shows the familiarity of McIntyre with both those guys and why he respects them enough not to take them lightly. McIntyre VS Lashley is perhaps an example of a lot of great story they could’ve been using, but Vince just again missed the mark because he doesn’t get it or thinks fans won’t get it or something. This could’ve been a build that fit the history and the hype but has so far not. The match will still deliver, though, I’m sure of that.

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News From Cook’s Corner 4.5.21: After War, Before Mania

NJPW has a shaken things up, and Mania week is about to kick off! Cook sets us up for the biggest week in professional wrestling!



Hi, hello & welcome to News From Cook’s Corner! I’m Steve Cook, and I hope you all had a Happy Easter. Or just a Happy Weekend if you’re not into bunnies, eggs or Jesus. We don’t judge here at the Corner.

It’s been a very exciting weekend. Baseball is back! My Reds actually won two games and put up a bunch of runs against the St. Louis baseball team in the opening series. It’s always exciting when the Reds manage to take that series because it’s just an honor that St. Louis allows Cincinnati to play against them so often. Just incredible for the Reds to share the field with one of the greatest teams in the history of Western civilization, the franchise that sets all the rules & standards for how the game should be played.

Don’t believe me? Just ask them!

College basketball also had itself a weekend with with the Gonzaga & UCLA men putting on a show Saturday night, while the Arizona women sent UConn packing the night before. They had an exciting championship game with Stanford too. I don’t know when the West Coast became the epicenter of college basketball, but I’m here for it. We can do with more of them & less of these southern & eastern teams we’re usually subjected to this time of year. Variety is the spice of life, am I right?

So there’s a lot of good stuff going on these days. Since this is a wrestling news column, I should probably also mention that this is the biggest week of WWE’s year. Got a little thing called WrestleMania coming up on Saturday & Sunday. NXT TakeOver on Wednesday & Thursday. Hall of Fame airing on Tuesday. Raw, SmackDown on usual days, and various media appearances from your favorite WWE Superstars.

We might get to that. Lots of news to talk about first…

Wednesday Night War Ends, Both Sides Win/Lose

NXT’s big move was finally made official last week. After this week’s episode featuring the first night of TakeOver, NXT will be airing on Tuesday nights on USA going forward. This is great news for wrestling fans that like having something to watch on cable/satellite television every single night, as Impact Wrestling’s move to Thursday ensures that there will be weekly wrestling shows every weeknight. It’s also great news for Internet wrestling reviewers, who no longer have to pick one show to review live.

Honestly, it’s only bad news for people that love to tweet about the ratings every Thursday. Not sure what those people are going to do with their time now, but I’m sure they’ll find something. They always do!

As for AEW & WWE’s NXT brand? Well, this whole thing has resulted in good & bad news for both sides.

Good News For AEW!

Dynamite dominated NXT in the ratings for most of the time period. The past 52 weeks saw NXT beat AEW four times in overall viewership, and zero times in the 18-49 demo the people love to talk about. Hard to argue with that type of success against your main sports entertainment competitor.

TNT is happy. They extended Dynamite pretty early in their relationship with AEW, and have given Cody & Brandi Rhodes’ reality show the greenlight. Cody also got a slot on the Go Big Show on TBS. Shaquille O’Neal & Snoop Dogg appeared to help cross-promote other Warner Media properties.

Bad News For AEW!

AEW had 1.4 million viewers for their first episode of Dynamite. A good chunk of that audience never came back, at least not for a live airing of the show. While they were drawing more viewers than NXT was, they weren’t growing their audience.

Recent numbers haven’t been great. The episode featuring Shaq did a pretty big number, but things have been trending downward since. The Revolution show-closing fiasco seems to have had a negative effect on AEW business, though it’s far too soon to tell whether that will be a long-term hindrance.

Good News For NXT!

NXT even being on USA in the first place was a good sign for WWE’s relationship with the network, and that’s only grown during this time period. Peacock’s on board with WWE Network now, NXT is factored into USA’s plans no matter what night it is, and things are good.

There’s a very good chance that NXT will win the ratings war this week. TakeOver always generates interest, and the AEW card didn’t look like its strongest of all time. NXT could go out on a good note!

I also think they’ll gain more from being on a separate night than AEW will being by itself on Wednesday night. AEW fans are diehard, but more of them seem willing to flip over to NXT during commercials or other times. People watching NXT are going to stick with NXT.

Bad News For NXT!

Now, this is going to be a bad week for me to say this since the brand always delivers on TakeOver events. But overall, NXT’s quality has gone down since the move to two hour weekly shows. More does not always equal better, and I think more NXT has served to make it less special. Which you wouldn’t have thought considering how many people are under contract and chilling at the Performance Center. Theoretically, more time would mean that more people would get a chance to shine. This hasn’t necessarily been the case.

The “cool factor” that NXT once had seems to be largely gone. There was a time period where people told me that they didn’t even consider NXT part of WWE. Even though it was, it didn’t bother these people. Nobody’s saying anything like that now. They all know NXT is part of the WWE machine, for better or worse.

And this is just idle speculation on my part, but it sure seems like the Wednesday Night War didn’t help Paul Levesque’s influence within the company. The recent upheaval at Talent Relations tells me that Vince McMahon wants other people making hiring decisions than who’s been making them. NXT isn’t producing stars at the rate that WWE wants them, and we can blame whoever we want for that, but at the end of the day the blame’s going to go a certain direction that won’t be the top.

Competition supposedly creates better content. I think at this point, the best thing that can happen is for AEW & NXT to be on separate nights. This way, they can focus on themselves and trying to make a better show instead of trying to pop a rating to beat the other guy.

Peacock Is Jericho

WrestleMania hasn’t been the most talked about upcoming WWE Network/Peacock show in recent days. Nor has it been TakeOver or the Hall of Fame show. It’s what will be streaming after Night 2 of WrestleMania ends, the newest Broken Skull Sessions show. Steve Austin’s interviews are usually pretty fun, but this one seems especially newsworthy since it involves somebody not currently employed by WWE…Chris Jericho.

Some say it’s a shot by WWE at AEW, wanting us to know that they don’t see them as competition. I don’t know how much that plays into it, but I can tell you why WWE, Peacock, Vince McMahon & anybody else with a say is ok with Steve Austin having Chris Jericho, a former WWE Superstar currently under contract with AEW, on his show.

They think people will watch.

It’s that simple, folks. WWE, AEW & any other wrestling company worth its salt bases the lion’s share of their programming ideas off the idea of drawing viewers. Not doing “alpha moves” or trying to bury people or whatever excuse we try to come up with in attempts to create drama. It’s about getting people to watch the programming. Getting Chris Jericho to do the Austin show? That’s interesting. People will tune in for that. That’s why WWE was cool with the idea.

Whether you love AEW & hate WWE, or hate AEW & love WWE, or you love both or hate both, we should all be able to agree on basic facts. Even if Dynamite draws more eyeballs on TV sets than NXT, or any other WWE show one of these days maybe if they get hot, AEW would still not really be “competition” for WWE as a business. We’re talking about a company that’s been around a little over two years that could have gone out of business during this pandemic if TNT didn’t extend their contract.

Say what you want about what WWE puts on television. I’m as critical of it as anybody. Say what you want about their business ethics. I’ve been critical of that too. What you can’t deny is the fact that WWE is a tremendously successful business that excels at making money off of what they own. Could they do better? Sure. Can somebody else match their creative efforts? Depends on who you ask! Is anybody going to overtake them as America’s biggest wrestling company anytime soon? Not unless we see another scenario like the early to mid 1990s, where WWE makes it possible by falling into a period of scandal and complete mainstream irrelevance. (Frankly, it’s tough to think of anything that could cause that, considering some of the business decisions they’ve made over the past few years that haven’t even really drawn a second glance.) Even then, somebody would really have to catch fire to get on WWE’s level.

Can AEW? We don’t know, and there’s a pretty good chance we’ll never know.

Andrade Speaks!

A lot of you are super excited about Andrade leaving WWE because it will surely lead to spectacular matches wherever he goes. You all tell me that he’s one of the best workers in the world and can have great matches with anybody. That’s cool, but that’s not the reason I was excited he left.

The real reason to be excited he left WWE? He’s going to talk!

The fact of the matter is that most of today’s American wrestling stars are reticent to say anything of great interest that isn’t blowing smoke up somebody’s backside, whether it’s their employer, their fellow wrestlers, or themselves. Sure, there are notable exceptions, but if media talks to most of these people, they’re getting gaga intended to be as non-controversial as possible. I can’t single wrestlers out for this, it’s prevalent in every form of sport or entertainment. Saying something interesting can make people mad, and most athletes/entertainers would prefer to avoid the backlash that typically ensues.

Those who have followed lucha libre over the years know that luchadores are far less shy. They don’t worry as much about “burning bridges”, probably because Mexican promotions will work with them as long as they draw some money. Wrestlers are still a part of what draws fans there, whereas in the US it’s more about the brand. Andrade has watched the luchadores that came before him. They have no problem with sharing their truth, and he has no problem sharing his.

So it wasn’t surprising that some breaking news came out of an interview Andrade did with Hugo Savinovich. Apparently, the reason Charlotte Flair was recently taken off of TV was due to a medical test that led WWE medical to believe that she was pregnant. Turns out that she wasn’t. However, she tested positive for the coronavirus soon after, which led to her continuing to be off of TV. Charlotte’s “camp” released a statement clarifying the whole matter, making sure to take the rough edges off.

Because that’s what American wrestling stars do. They have camps to take care of these things.

I, for one, can’t wait for more Andrade interviews, as they’re one of the few hopes we have of people saying something interesting.

Let’s talk about this AEW house show thing.

As we all know, there are quite the number of wrestling shows going on in the Tampa area this weekend. Which is another matter in itself, as we’ve got wrestlers on social media whining & moaning about people not buying tickets to their shows, which are taking place in the middle of a pandemic. The lack of awareness that some of these people have is somewhat mind-bottling, as the kids say. Anyway, there are a variety of wrestling shows taking place in the Tampa area this weekend, hoping to take advantage of a large number of wrestling fans being in town.

Then we have All Elite Wrestling, who are running shows in Jacksonville at their usual venue. Kind of out of nowhere, they decided they were going to run their first ever house show this Friday. Running these types of shows isn’t a terrible idea for AEW, especially when they have so many people on their roster. Gotta keep them busy somehow, right?

Of course, the fact it’s on WrestleMania Weekend has people talking. People remember back when Cody Rhodes told people that AEW would never try to compete with WWE on WrestleMania Weekend. To be fair, Cody’s said a number of things in interviews while talking about AEW’s future plans that ended up being fals later on. As the old saying goes, plans change.

I’m not as worked up about this as a lot of people are. Maybe people aren’t aware of this, but the fastest trip from Tampa to Jacksonville takes about three hours. It’s right around two hundred miles via I-75. How many people in town for WrestleMania already are going to make a three hour drive to Jacksonville & another three hour drive back to Tampa? Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Then again, I hate driving pretty much anywhere at this point in my life. So maybe I’m the wrong person to pontificate on this topic.

New Japan Championship Change

Some big news came out of NJPW’s Sakura Genesis show that took place over the weekend. Will Ospreay, who had won the New Japan Cup to earn a shot at Kota Ibushi’s IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, defeated Ibushi to win that title. He is the first British wrestler to hold New Japan’s top heavyweight championship.

It’s the second straight year that New Japan has seen a popular wrestler win the top championship at Wrestle Kingdom, only to have a much shorter reign than people expected, losing to a heel wrestler. Ospreay is very talented at what he does, if you’re into matches with lots of flipping, flopping & flying. He’s got a new faction behind him, and speaking English will help if NJPW plans on continuing their international expansion, which I assume they are.

As for Ibushi, it seems like he’s already been shunted behind Shingo Takagi & Kazuchika Okada in championship contention. So I can only assume he’s counting the days when he can get back together with Kenny Omega. Michael Nakazawa’s days might be numbered.

Thanks for reading! We’ve got a big week of content coming up here at The Chairshot, including my gambling picks for Night One & Night Two of WrestleMania! Not to mention all the great show coverage, podcasts & everything else we’ll have cooked up for you. Stay tuned, and until next time, keep your stick on the ice.

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