Rob Bonnette is back with a look at the WWE use of Naomi. Is she the most misused talent on the roster for the past decade?
It may seem like it was 10 years ago now, but you remember the 2020 Royal Rumble don’t you? I sure do, and I remember that the most talked about moment of the Women’s Royal Rumble was when Naomi came back after a five month absence and set the place on fire, hitting the ring and going toe to toe for a few minutes with eventual winner Charlotte Flair. The sequence, where Naomi showed off her athletic skills to a T, went viral and got a ton of views across all kinds of platforms. Minutes later she avoided elimination in spectacular fashion by leaping to the barricade and using the announce table cover as a bridge to get back in the ring. Her long suffering fans were hopeful that maybe now she would get the push she’d earned and hadn’t seen since 2017 when she won the Smackdown Women’s Title at WrestleMania. Then the following Friday she confronted Bayley on Smackdown to set up an eventual Women’s Title match at the upcoming Super Showdown in Saudi Arabia. That match, which was a good one that Bayley won by cheating, came and went followed by that sinking feeling that that was it. And it was.
WrestleMania saw her get eliminated second in the 5 way elimination match for that same title, but after that……nothing. She lost a Money in the Bank qualifying match, and since then has lost two matches to Dana Brooke and this past Friday to Lacey Evans. Which led to the hashtag #Naomideservesbetter that is trending around 14 as I’m typing this out. My Twitter timeline is ablaze with people rightfully pissed off that such a great return in January has turned into this debacle in July. With Bayley set to take on (and I’m guessing beat) Nikki Cross at Extreme Rules, Bayley is going to need another challenger between then and when the inevitable post-split confrontation with Sasha Banks goes down. And yet the best possible option on that roster is out here losing to the likes of Brooke and Evans. And that’s disgusting. Brooke to her credit has gotten much better than she was when she first came to the main roster but she is who she is, good for tag or multi-woman matches but that’s it. Evans is marginally better than she was a year ago but at this point any objective observer would tell you that she’s plateaued in the ring at a level that’s passable but not very good.
— Charlotte Flair (@MsCharlotteWWE) July 18, 2020
This strikes a really raw nerve in her very devoted fanbase, and that nerve is one of race. For the past two years she’s been used to job to white women like Brooke, Evans, and Mandy Rose and to spice up matches like the Money in the Bank in 2018 and 2019 and the 2020 Rumble. But she goes in those matches with zero chance of winning and in between them her TV time is sporadic, much less than someone of her ability and personality should be getting. And when she was champion in 2017 she got to defend the title one time over three pay per views, against Lana of all people, before inexplicably losing it to Natalya at SummerSlam that year. As questionable as that was at least Nattie is actually good in the ring and not some a load to be carried by her opponent. Which is what Naomi has gotten stuck with too many times. She is better than that and should not constantly be stuck in these places.
If you want the black woman fan experience summed up in one match look no further than the 2018 Women’s Money in the Bank match. The match was great and a very large portion of what made it great was all the athletic highspots that were done by three black women – Naomi, Ember Moon, and Sasha Banks. Meanwhile, who wins that match but Alexa Bliss who did literally less than five things the entire match. Now in the grand scheme of the existing storylines and her character yes it made sense for her to win the match but man that was not a good look at all for three black woman to do that much to electrify a match that was won by a blonde haired white woman who did very little in it. And for dare I say most black women watching that felt like the BS they deal with at work every day. Now take and add two more years of a lot of the same not just for Naomi but Sasha, Ember and Bianca Belair over in NXT. Houston, we do have a problem here.
Now no matter how she feels about it personally, her fans are rightfully disgusted about all this. Her career in WWE has been way too reminiscent of what Black women have to deal with in their own lives and careers every day, where showing that you are extremely skilled and talented leads to years of putting over less talented white counterparts and being asked to add personality and yes, color to some otherwise bland situations. And when they dare to speak up about it, or someone speaks on their behalf, the response is to downgrade their abilities and call them ungrateful. There’s no reason Naomi shouldn’t be a perennial contender for one of the Women’s singles championships and a regular match winner on TV. Do you honestly think that the Lacey Evans or Dana Brooke are championship material in 2020? Did you think Mandy Rose was in 2019 (or is now for that matter?) Can you honestly tell me that you’ve wanted to see any of those three actually wrestle in an important match once the bell rang? I can’t think of one match that’s been made better by adding any of them to it, and I can’t think of a single time Naomi has been in the ring where I wish one of them was there instead.
“But everyone can’t be a champion Rob; don’t you say that all the time?”
Yeah I do. But the examples of men that I saw people throw around as guys who are supposedly in the same position as her were Cesaro, he of the seven month US title reign and six tag team title reigns and Sami Zayn, who for a year has gotten free reign on the mic every week and beaten both Braun Strowman and Daniel Bryan on pay per view in 2020. Zayn would still be Intercontinental Champion had he not gone home because of the pandemic. Meanwhile since 2017 Naomi has……won the Women’s Battle Royal at WrestleMania 34. So yeah, they aren’t the same. Why is she not in the mix for the Smackdown Women’s Title? Or if not that, why isn’t she teamed up with somebody (she mentioned Bianca Belair and Ember Moon as partners she’d like to work with) to go after the tag titles? Why is she being used to prop up opponents who are not likely to even sniff any titles in the near future? Why do I have to keep writing this story again and again? Is me or someone else gonna be writing this about Bianca Belair in a year or two (I could have written about her last year in NXT to be honest)?
Now look, anyone who knows me knows that I am not one to shout ‘bad booking!’ or ‘misused!’ but this is a case where even I am breaking my normal routine. Wake up, WWE. You have someone who is a great athlete, can go in the ring, has a devoted fanbase who will buy stuff with her name on it if you put out more of it, who looks good (yes that’s important), and lights up (both figuratively and literally) every match she’s in. If all you see her as is a good hand then you’re continuing to fumble the ball. And if you’re one of these ‘fans’ who insist on well actually-ing one of her fans who speaks up for her, you need to take a hard look in the mirror and be honest about why you feel the need to keep doing that. Not being a fan is fine, you don’t have to be a fan of anyone. But failing, or should I say choosing not to see what she brings to the table is a choice that looks real funny in the light to me.
Cook’s 2021 AEW Dynamite Awards Preview
Steve Cook is here to preview the 2021 AEW Dynamite Awards?!?! Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.
Steve Cook is here to preview the 2021 AEW Dynamite Awards?!?! Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.
It’s Awards Season! Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like pro wrestling has more awards with each passing year. In addition to the Wrestling Observer, 411mania & countless other media outlets presenting awards, promotions do their own as well. WWE has the Slammys & the NXT Year-End Awards. Impact Wrestling has had their own awards since around the start of their company.
It only makes sense for AEW to add themselves to the mix. I’m a little confused by the Dynamite Awards, only because some of the moments nominated didn’t take place in 2020. Some of the late 2019 stuff was included here, which I suppose was in the interest of fairness because early 2020 would have been too soon to do awards. Still kinda off, but this will take care of itself in 2022. Probably.
Let’s take a look at this year’s AEW Dynamite Awards! I’m going to tell you who should win and who will win, so you can win your AEW Dynamite Award pool. I don’t know if people will be betting on these things, but just in case they are, here’s some help!
Best Moment on the Mic:
MJF Campaign Speech “We Deserve Better”
Cody Rhodes Accepts Mr. Brodie Lee’s Dog Collar Match Challenge
Jon Moxley “Accepts” The Inner Circle Invitation From Jericho
Brandi Rhodes Confronts Jade Cargill
Orange Cassidy Debates With Chris Jericho
Who Should Win: Orange Cassidy Debates With Chris Jericho
Honestly, one of the biggest travesties committed by the selection committee is the lack of Eddie Kingston in this category. Completely ridiculous. That being said, there aren’t any duds listed here. Brandi’s inclusion probably gets some heat from people, but her going off on Jade was tremendous. Orange’s performance against Jericho in the debate was some pretty good stuff & showed a different side of Mr. Cassidy than we’re accustomed to seeing. I’d give the award to him.
Who Will Win: Orange Cassidy Debates With Chris Jericho
We’re talking about Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Most Popular Wrestler of the Year here, along with the Demo God. Their star power carries them to the top of the polling.
Matt Hardy’s Debut
Jake “The Snake” Roberts Confronts Cody Rhodes
Brodie Lee Arrives As The Exalted One
Sting’s AEW Debut
Miro Revealed As The Best Man
Who Should Win: Jake “The Snake” Roberts Confronts Cody Rhodes
Your vote here will largely depend on your fandom of the wrestler involved. Matt Hardy fans will vote for Matt Hardy. Fans of underutilized WWE talent may go for Brodie or Miro. Sting’s popularity speaks for itself. For me, it goes back to Jake The Snake being my first favorite professional wrestler. Seeing him again, especially seeing him over the issues that had plagued him for decades, was a tremendous moment.
Who Will Win: Sting’s AEW Debut
“IT’S STING!” is all that needs to be said here.
The Inner Circle Jumps Orange Cassidy
The Dark Order Attacks the Nightmare Family
Nyla Rose Puts Riho & Shida Through Tables
Brian Cage Sneak Attack On Jon Moxley
The Nightmare Family And Inner Circle Brawl
Who Should Win: The Dark Order Attacks The Nightmare Family
Brodie Lee’s destruction of Cody to win the TNT Championship really put Dark Order on the map as a force to be reckoned with. My favorite part of the beatdown: we didn’t see all of it. Dustin Rhodes & QT Marshall were drug out from the back, explaining why they didn’t come out to help Cody earlier. Arn Anderson took some shots like a champ, and Brandi got choked out by Anna Jay. By the time the old TNT belt had been deposited on Cody’s carcass, the message had been sent loud & clear.
Who Will Win: The Nightmare Family And Inner Circle Brawl
This fight had a little bit of everything. MJF as a good guy. Cody smashing a window. Diamond Dallas Page looking like he could make one more run. Dippin’ Dots. Chris Jericho screaming about how he had a ticket. A hot crowd. What’s not to like?
Who Should Win: Rey Fenix
All four of these guys are insane, but nobody brings the insanity like Fenix. That guy just doesn’t care as long as he does as many flips as humanly possible. He & Penta were deserving winners of most web sites’ Most Underrated award, maybe he’ll get some recognition here.
Who Will Win: Nick Jackson
Fenix & Pac split the vote of Death Triangle fans, enabling Nick to ride the support of Elite fans to the crown.
Hardest Moment To Clean Up After:
Orange Cassidy Drops OJ on Inner Circle
Parking Lot Brawl
Big Swole Dumps Garbage On Dr. Britt Baker
Who Should Win: Orange Cassidy Drops OJ On Inner Circle
The Parking Lot Brawl is my favorite moment on the list, but the damage was largely contained to the parking lot. Big Swole’s garbage ended up in Dr. Baker’s Popemobile, not scattered all over the place. The Bunkhouse Match went everywhere and definitely deserves consideration, but the OJ incident resulted in a ruined suit & ring canvas. Definitely tough to get that stuff out.
Who Will Win: Parking Lot Brawl
People get a chance to vote for this, they probably will. Orange is represented in this one too, so it’s all good.
Biggest WTF Moment:
Cody Moonsaulting Off The Steel Cage
Sammy Guevara Is Hit By The Golf Cart
The Young Bucks Frog Splash Off The Stadium Railing
MJF Lashes Cody Rhodes
Bloody Dr. Britt Baker vs. Hikaru Shida
Kenny Omega Wins AEW World Championship and Walks out of AEW
Who Should Win: Sammy Guevara Is Hit By The Golf Cart
I am the golf cart.
The dumb "AEW needs to stop pushing ex-WWE guys!" arguments are Sammy Guevara. pic.twitter.com/ol2y9Qkzya
— Andy H. Murray (@andyhmurray) May 7, 2020
All these moments definitely had an element of craziness, but they all pale in comparison to Sammy getting hit by the golf cart. Like, who willingly does that? Definitely something people shouted “WTF?” at.
Who Will Win: Kenny Omega Wins AEW World Championship and Walks out of AEW
We certainly saw some funny business coming when Don Callis started appearing to call big Kenny matches. Nothing quite like what we’ve gotten, where AEW is regularly making their presence felt on Impact Wrestling’s AXS TV show while Omega & Callis have joined forces with the Good Brothers to re-live their New Japan glory days. Recency bias & the general craziness of AEW & Impact crossing over make this a solid pick.
Jericho & MJF: Le Dinner Debonair
Dr. Britt Baker Waxes Tony Schiavone
Young Bucks Super Kick MJF Into Cruise Ship Pool
The Inner Circle Las Vegas Trip
Who Should Win: The Young Bucks Super Kick MJF Into Cruise Ship Pool
— All Elite Wrestling on TNT (@AEWonTNT) January 25, 2020
I’m a simple man. Anytime somebody gets thrown into a pool on a wrestling show, I laugh and cheer. As creative as Jericho & MJF’s musical number was, and as crazy as that Vegas trip was, and as much as I love Britt & Tony’s chemistry together, give me the classics every time. Man gets thrown into pool. Simple, yet effective.
Who Will Win: Jericho & MJF: Le Dinner Debonair
MJF needs another plaque honoring his musical performance to carry around. As Owen Hart & Scorpio Sky could tell you, one trophy is always better than two.
Best Twitter Follow:
Dr. Britt Baker
Who Should Win: MJF
Dude just talks shit about everybody under the sun. Even Negative One, for heaven’s sake!
Who Will Win: Orange Cassidy
Twitter was made for people like Orange, who have no problem keeping their thoughts under 140 characters. I’m also good at it!
Breakout Male Star:
Who Should Win: Eddie Kingston
I can make a really good argument for every single nominee. We’ve already seen Orange’s name pop up a few times here, it’s no secret that he had an outstanding year. Darby is the current TNT Champion and has proven his worth every time we’ve seen him in the ring. The Brian Cage match took place after voting started, but it was evidence of why Allin deserves to win an award like this, and deserves his spot as TNT Champion and the man that Sting has chosen to carry on his legacy. Don’t get me started on Johnny Hungiee, once he started showing his personality on Being The Elite, everybody fell in love with the guy.
Eddie Kingston only went from needing to sell his wrestling boots to pay the rent to being one of AEW’s brightest stars. Those of us who were familiar with his work in the indies or in Impact wrestling knew about it. All Eddie needed was a chance, and he’d take care of business. That’s exactly what he did, and he’ll be in AEW as long as he wants to be.
Who Will Win: Darby Allin
It’ll be well-deserved, too. Nobody can deny that Darby brings it every time he’s out there. The man might be 170 pounds fully clothed with some chains, but his toughness and inability to quit can’t be denied.
Breakout Female Star:
Who Should Win: Anna Jay
Anna had less than ten matches before getting on AEW television, and she immediately proved that she belongs. She can only get better in the ring, and she already performs at an acceptable level. Her only weakness? She always corpses when John Silver is being peak John Silver. I can’t really blame her for it.
Who Will Win: Hikaru Shida
I mean, she is the AEW Women’s Champion. Which is at least the second most important championship in the women’s division. It’s no fault of Shida’s, she does good work, but I don’t really see that connection between her and the audience.
Bleacher Report PPV Moment of the Year:
Jon Moxley Wins AEW World Championship
Shida Wins AEW Women’s World Championship
Kenny Omega & Adam “Hangman” Page Defeat The Young Bucks
Darby Allin Defeats Cody Rhodes For TNT Title
Young Bucks Win AEW World Tag Title
Who Should Win: Jon Moxley Wins AEW World Championship
Tons of good contenders here, but it’s tough to argue against Mox knocking off Le Champion at Revolution. He was the right man to take the title from Chris Jericho at the right time, and few champions could have carried AEW through this weird year like Moxley did.
Who Will Win: Stadium Stampede
I think the multi-man clustermess has the best chance of garnering the most votes. It was certainly one of the most unique offerings from AEW in 2020.
Will the AEW Dynamite Awards be a unique offering? Tough to say, but you can find out by streaming the show on BR Live next Wednesday! You can also find out how right I was on every single award. It’s a gift.
Andrew’s Top 5 Matches: Week Ending 1/17/2021
Now since this week isn’t full of big events, the list should be a little more interesting. Let’s see what made the Top 5 and if it’s close to last week’s quality!
Last week kicked things off hot and heavy, and as expected; we cooled down a little this week. Still some fun matches, but nothing should really be competition for last week’s list.
Speaking of that list, all 6 matches had some support, and that’s really nice to see. However, there has to be a winner, and by only a couple of votes; Wrestle Kingdom Night 1: Will Ospreay vs Kazuchika Okada, won the popular vote!
So let’s see what matches we get to possibly add to the January pool!
Quick Top 5:
- NXT UK: NXT UK Championship: Walter (c) vs A-Kid
- Hard to Kill: Kenny Omega, Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows vs Moose, Rich Swann & Chris Sabin
- Hard to Kill: Barbed Wire Massacre: Sami Callihan vs Eddie Edwards
Rating: *** 3/4
- NXT: MSK vs Isaiah Scott & Jake Atlas
Rating: *** 1/2
- Hard to Kill: X Division Championship: Manik (c) vs Rohit Raju vs Chris Bey
Rating: *** 1/2
- IMPACT!: Rich Swann vs Karl Anderson
Rating: *** 1/2
- AEW New Year’s Smash Night 2: TNT Championship: Darby Allin (c) vs Brian Cage
Rating: *** 1/4
- Hard to Kill: Knockouts Championship: Deonna Purrazzo (c) w/Kimber Lee & Susan vs Taya Valkyrie w/ Decay
Rating: *** 1/4
- IMPACT!: Rohit Raju & Chris Bey vs Manik & Suicide
Rating: *** 1/4
- WWE SmackDown: Daniel Bryan vs Cesaro
Rating: *** 1/4
- NXT: Undisputed Era vs Breezango
- Hard to Kill: Knockouts Tag Team Title Finals: Fire & Flava (Kiera Hogan & Tasha Steelz) vs Nevaeh & Havok
- AEW New Year’s Smash Night 2: NWA Women’s World Championship: Serena Deeb (c) vs Tay Conti
- WWE SmackDown: Jey Uso vs Shinsuke Nakamura
- IMPACT!: Tenille Dashwood w/Kaleb vs Rosemary
4t. IMPACT!: Rich Swann vs Karl Anderson
The entire time Kenny’s been in the picture, they’ve put a lot of spotlight on some of Karl’s singles accolades in Japan. So it should come as no surprise that Karl actually came in with a plan and dominated for a good portion. Karl focused on the shoulder and it worked really well for him.
Rich was selling and getting caught by Shotgun kicks and a bunch of other moves, but at least proving to be resilient. Rich manages to catch Karl as Karl starts looking to finish things. A few nice strikes, the over the shoulder back kick and finally Swann’s got something. Karl does stabilize and look for the Gun Stun, but Rich ducks the Gun Stun with a School Boy Rollup and that’s the match!
Winner: Swann via School Boy Rollup
4t. Hard to Kill: X Division Championship: Manik (c) vs Rohit Raju vs Chris Bey
Rohit went after Manik to try and prove his point that it’s TJP. Bey seemed dead set on finding a way to win, and as we expected in an X Division match; there were a lot of spots, but they all made sense. Rohit does manage to take off the mask, but TJP painted his face under the mask, so it still throws off Rohit. TJP strings together a few moves, goes for the Mamba Splash, but gets caught by Bey with a Cutter. Bey then hits a Double Art of Finesse, but his brief moment of not knowing who to pin, caused the pinfall breakup.
Rohit almost won the title back after his call back to hitting his Tiger Knee after a Mamba Splash but Bey kicked out. Haymakers get thrown, Rohit hits the Dragon Stomp on Bey, and looks to finish things, but TJP slides in for the style of Cradle he’s used a bit lately, and retains his title after a fun, hard fought match.
Winner: Manik via Ole Cradle
4t. NXT: MSK vs Isaiah Scott & Jake Atlas
Swerve drags Wes up, full nelson for Atlas to HEEL KICK Wes, then a spin to a fireman’s carry, toss and SPINNING POWERSLAM! Swerve is up top, 450 SPLASH! Atlas covers, but Carter breaks it just in time! Fans fire up as Swerve grows frustrated! Swerve throws Carter back out, Atlas drags Wes back over and tags Swerve in. Atlas drags Wes to a corner, rams his shoulder in, and Swerve helps hoist Wes to the top rope. Swerve and Atlas both climb up to bring Wes up but Carter drags Atlas down in a heap! Wes shoves Swerve away and both men fall to the mat! Fans fire up as everyone is down, and Wes gets to ropes. Wes kicks Swerve away to go to his corner but no one is home.
Swerve runs in, blocks a boot, but Carter tags in! Carter ROCKS Swerve, Wes pops Swerve up to the ropes, Carter ROCKS Swerve into Wes’ NO HANDS POISON-RANA!! Carter drags Swerve up, Wes runs in, BLOCKBUSTER HART ATTACK! Cover, MSK WINS!!
Winner: MSK via Blockbuster Hart Attack
3. Hard to Kill: Barbed Wire Massacre: Sami Callihan vs Eddie Edwards
Interesting pacing to get across the familiarity, twisted respect and love for punishment between these two. We saw Barbed Wire Tables, Chairs, Baseball Bats, Kendo Sticks and even an…N64 Controller!
Sami took a ton of punishment, but the story was basically playing with Eddie’s emotions to bait him into bad dives, and openings for Sami to move out of the way, or sneak in a barbed wire shot. Eddie hit a Blue Thunder Bomb on a barbed wire chair, Sami hit an Avalanche Piledriver through a barbed wire table, but none of this was enough. If anything, the Piledriver just pissed Eddie off.
Going for the callback that started it all, Sami tries to hit a Barbed Wire Chair into Eddie’s face with a Barbed Wire Bat, but Eddie hits a low blow to get a moment. Sami tries to bring himself up with a chair, Eddie hits the Boston Knee Party, then the Diehard Flowsion for the win!
Winner: Eddie via Diehard Flowsion
1t. Hard to Kill: Kenny Omega, Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows vs Moose, Rich Swann & Chris Sabin
We get a lot of Japanese tag stylings, from the triple team that Team Impact pulls off, to the way the Club breaks up any type of momentum with their own train attacks into the corner. Moose looked amazing in this match. He went toe to toe with everyone, pulled off great moves like a Standing Moonsault, leaped to the top rope for a Spanish Fly and was a really good teammate, regardless of his issues with Rich Swann. Hell Swann and Moose even hit a Doomsday Device variant together. Small aside, I did like seeing Chris Sabin pull off Cradle Shock, which just doesn’t happen often enough anymore.
Omega almost has the match one on Rich, but the only one able to break it up was Moose, and he did so. Omega went into V-Trigger spamming mode to wipe out Moose, rock Rich and then a One Winged Angel won the match for the Bullet Club former members.
Winner: Omega via One Winged Angel
1t. NXT UK: NXT UK Championship: Walter (c) vs A-Kid
AK survives two powerful impacts and BT Sports Studio is thunderous! Walter stirs and crawls over to AK. Walter facelocks AK, drags him up and eggs him on. Walter CHOPS AK back down and AK flops to ropes! AK sits up and Walter kicks at him again. Walter CLUBS AK but AK gets up with a clenched jaw. AK SLAPS Walter, then catches the chop to a takedown! AK locks up one arm, wants the other, but Walter resists! AK shifts to an ARMBAR! Walter clasps hands, moves around, but AK keeps his shoulders up in the triangle hold! Walter moves around, rolls them both to the ropes then out of the ring! Walter APRON BOMBS AK down!!
AK crumples to the floor but Walter drags him back up to put him in. Walter stalks AK but AK fires off palm strikes! Walter grabs AK for a sleeper but AK pries it off to PELE! Walter staggers, AK runs, into a LARIAT!! Walter CHOPS AK on the back! And POINT-BLANK LARIATS!! Cover, Walter wins!!
Winner: Walter via Burning Lariat
Well it’s hard to argue that Walter vs A-Kid was the best match, it only lacked a little punch since I don’t follow NXT UK super closely; so I didn’t see A-Kid as a credible threat. He did prove himself fairly well with the MMA style strikes and grappling attacks, but he’s still to fresh of a face to me, for me to have bought in as much as say Ilja or Tyler Bate, when they had their big versus little man matches.
Impact did bring some higher quality, but that’s to be expected since they had a PPV and a Go Home. The Rascalz debuting as MSK was nice, so I’m glad they got a small moment to shine.
Either way, Walter vs A-Kid, is my vote for match of the week. Which one gets your vote?
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