Hi, hello & welcome to News From Cook’s Corner! I’ll tell you what, it feels like things are starting to get back to normal around here. After weeks of virus & death & speaking out, the past few days have seen wrestling fans return to what they love talking about more than anything else…
It’s the only metric that doesn’t involve star ratings that we can judge pro wrestling by here in 2020. Not that it’s a great way to judge pro wrestling. It’s awful. We all know the various weaknesses in TV ratings released a day after the show. People watch these shows at different times, especially people of my generation and younger. People watch them on devices other than a television. I’ve taken to watching NXT on the WWE Network when it becomes available there. All these wrestling shows are available on demand, in different timeslots, or via DVR.
The amount of attention given to the Thursday cable ratings chart is somewhat absurd. We can say the same about Raw & SmackDown’s ratings results, but it goes into overdrive on Thursday because NXT & AEW are the two shows that try to appeal to the Internet crowd the most. People have chosen their hills to die on, and it’s really for the best if we all stay off social media from late-afternoon Thursday until Friday. Or maybe forever, but I got some wrestling columns to try & get people to read.
Everybody has takes. Here are three takes I have on NXT’s recent “viewership” victories over AEW.
1. Sasha & Bayley are draws
NXT ratings have seen increases when main roster talent shows up. Makes sense, as WWE does well in the older demographic (much better than AEW at any rate), and the older folks are more likely to tune in when people they’ve heard of are going to be on a show. So NXT did pretty well during the Survivor Series build when all kinds of main roster talent was coming over, and the last couple of weeks have seen a big boost in that demographic thanks to Sasha & Bayley.
I’m not surprised, I’m a fan of what Sasha & Bayley have been doing lately character-wise and they’re always entertaining in the ring. It’s just interesting to point out how their appearances have boosted NXT while Charlotte Flair’s various appearances in the weeks prior pretty much kept things level. Vince McMahon has to be scratching his head over this one, but us real ones know what’s up.
Sasha 3 Shows & Bayley 3 Brands are what’s working for WWE right now. Keep it going.
2. AEW is shook
Remember how I explained a few paragraphs ago how the ratings metrics are flawed, and how people smarter than I probably explained it better ages ago? Well, somebody needs to tell Tony Khan and his boys about it, because NXT’s “viewership” victories are in their heads right now. We got Chris Jericho on Twitter explaining how AEW is kicking ass in the demos that matter, which true or not isn’t the best look for Le Champion. MJF mentioned the “Ratings War” in his promo. Taz mentioned how WWE runs a sloppy shop. Cody had his classic Great American Bash logo ripoff t-shirt.
It’s getting to them. Which was WWE’s intention all along when they got NXT that slot on Wednesday nights opposite of Dynamite. They didn’t care if they won! If they really cared, they would have moved Raw or SmackDown there or have some dual brand supershow or something. Instead, they let HHH’s passion project have the slot. Why not? If it fails, it takes Hunter down a notch, which I’m sure some people there wouldn’t mind. If it works, they kill off some potential competition. It was win-win all along for WWE.
All it took was a couple of weeks of partial victories, and they got AEW all unsure of themselves. Regardless of how all the other views of the shows shake out, that’s a victory for WWE.
3. There are way too many people with Fox News on their TV all day
Which is why no matter what polling looks like right now, I wouldn’t get too sure of myself if I was in Joe Biden’s campaign. Sorry, I know this has nothing to do with WWE or AEW, it’s just my main takeaway every time I look at the Thursday cable ratings charts. Fox News dominates viewership & the main demos I’m told to care about. I’m just saying. They snuck up on you in 2016, and they’re fixing to do it again in 2020. Especially if Kayne takes a good chunk of that African-American vote with whatever he’s doing. I’m more convinced than ever that we’ll get four more years of this, whatever it is. Not good from where I sit, maybe good for you if you’re rich, in which case I’d like you to let your wealth trickle down to me.
So, those are my takes. I don’t get wrapped up in decimal points like many wrestling fans do. All I really care about at the end of the day: DID I ENJOY THE SHOW? I enjoyed watching AEW live and conversing with my friends that also watch it live. One of the highlights of my week is talking to the AEW otters, as I love them like brothers and sisters. I also enjoyed watching NXT on the WWE Network. Both were good shows in my book! It’s like everybody said about the Monday Night War back in the day, the winners were the fans. If NXT winning “viewership” a couple of weeks makes AEW raise their game, the winners, again, are the fans.
WWE buys EVOLVE
I think we all saw this coming. Maybe not, as some sites pitched it as “big news”, but the second that an EVOLVE show aired on WWE Network, everybody should have known the endgame. The only question was when. and now seems like a perfect time since there’s a pandemic and it’s not like EVOLVE can run a bunch of shows anyway.
WWN will still be a thing, apparently. Sal Hamoui will still run some feds, it’s just that EVOLVE & Gabe Sapolsky are being taken in by the WWE machine. I’m selfishly hoping this means all EVOLVE shows end up on WWE Network pretty soon for selfish reasons. For one thing, so I can see more early Reby Sky wrestling appearances. Honestly, that’s pretty much it, though Larry would tell me I should watch all of the GRAPPLEFUCK period with Tim Thatcher & Catchpoint & all that jazz. I think Mox had some appearances too? At any rate, they should dump all those shows on the Network so I can figure it out.
I mean, if these guys are going to sell out to Vince, they should at least do me the courtesy of having their material available on the award-winning WWE Network. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
You can wear masks at WWE events now
Our friends at Fightful Select have informed us that WWE has done a 180 on their policy regarding their employees wearing masks. Now, everybody not performing on camera must wear a mask at all times. The penalty is a stiff one too. $500 fine if you violate the policy one time, and $1000 for the second time. Apparently, a star that recently returned to Raw took his concerns over how the company was handling things at their tapings to Vince McMahon, and that led to Vince instituting the rule. Now we see plenty of the NXT students wearing masks in the audience, which is a good thing. Took WWE way too long to figure it out, but at least they got there eventually.
I will say from a personal perspective that I’ve seen a much higher percentage of people wearing masks lately, and I don’t live or work in an area where they’re 100% required. Some of you are starting to get it. There’s still a lot of you that don’t, and as long as you stay amongst yourselves it’s ok with me. Austin Aries was the most recent wrestler to espouse anti-mask views on social media, which surprised absolutely nobody familiar with him. See, the thing with guys like Aries & Low Ki is that fans can’t “cancel” them. Reputable promoters stopped booking their annoying asses years ago because they weren’t worth the headaches.
The Observer reports that Rey Mysterio is currently working for WWE while not being under contract. Some would question the wisdom of featuring somebody on your TV that isn’t under contract, but I’d say Rey’s earned the benefit of the doubt. WWE doesn’t have to worry about him flying the coop & leaving them in the lurch. Especially when he has a son he’s trying to get in to the business. Rey’s not burning that bridge.
PWInsider gave us some more details on Bully Ray’s departure from ROH, which quite honestly was news to me because I haven’t been keeping up to date with his developments. His contract expired at the beginning of April, there wasn’t any hard feelings, both sides just didn’t see anything else for Ray to do in ROH. In news that I’m assuming is related, D’Lo Brown has been teasing an Aces & Eights reunion during recent broadcasts of Impact Wrestling. I’d expect that to be Bully’s next appearance.
Though, when I look at the Aces & Eights roster, I’m not sure who all they can bring back to be part of that. Former member Luke Gallows & his tag team partner Karl Anderson signed with Impact last week, so them being part of it would make sense. Taz is in AEW, Devon is working for WWE. Mr. Anderson was working for the NWA, but everything regarding that promotion is up in the air after David Lagana’s resignation. Has anybody seen Garrett Bischoff or Knux lately? Wes Brisco? Brooke Tessmacher? I’m sure they’ll figure something out.
Speaking of the NWA, Zicky Dice & others are in the process of getting their release from the company. After seeing Ricky Starks get a chance in AEW so soon after getting his release, it’s easy to see why NWA wrestlers would be looking toward greener pastures.
NXT UK Update
A big announcement was teased regarding NXT UK last week. I found more tweets wondering if the announcement had been made than tweets about the announcement itself, which involved Joe Coffey being suspended and two referees getting released. It wasn’t so much an “announcement” as it was Triple H telling these crazy Brits to get their stuff in order. The promotion will return to taping shows at an unknown time.
I wouldn’t have been shocked if they closed the doors on NXT UK, but that would go against WWE’s desire to own the whole world. Even a world decimated by virus is something they’d like to have.
Necro Butcher vs. Hodgkin’s
Necro Butcher announced that he’s been diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He’ll undergo several rounds of chemotherapy to treat the disease. The good news is that people diagnosed have a very good survival rate. The bad news is that chemotherapy is the worst. Necro was my favorite deathmatch wrestler back in the 2000s. The guy really knew how to work the style and make his stuff seem like it mattered. And if you’ve never seen that match with Necro taking on Samoa Joe…well, I assume anybody reading this column has. If not, here ya go.
Kick Hodgkin’s ass, Necro!
I think that’s going to be enough from me at this time. Please continue reading all of the awesome writers & listening to all the great podcasters here at The Chairshot, and keep your stick on the ice.
NXT Minus 6: A Tale of Two Champions
Bradley Jay is here with the WWE NXT Minus 6, and we have new champions. Two very, very different new champions.
Our two new champions could not be more different…
6. Doomsday Saito comes to the ring and gives a painful, cliched promo. Any wrestler in the back could have said those exact words. Train harder and beat people up. He’s angry. We get it. The only thing Saito could do that would interest me is move to RawDown. On the other hand…
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Not gonna lie, that promo was wasn’t even hot garbage. It was cold garbage.]
5. Raquel Gonzalez delivers a genuine, heartfelt promo that only she could give. Tears of joy. It told her story, and it’s exactly why she got the pop and the chant she deserved. The addition of Rhea Ripley and Bianca Belair, complete with throwback pic, was icing on the cake. I’m excited for whatever Gonzalez does next. Speaking of…
4. Fantasy booking alert!!! Two weeks ago, Raquel Gonzelez told the world I was the one who believed in her. I was the one who made her a champion. Then Rhea Ripley shows up, and Bianca Belair shows up, and I’m the one sent to the back. How quickly you forget who your real friends are. I was the one who took you to the top, and chicka, I am the one who is going to drag you to the bottom. I used you to get to the top and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I am Dakota Kai.
3. No more Santa Claus Ice Cream Bar. Santos Escobar has earned his name back. His match with KUSHIDA is everything great about NXT. Say it with me. Good things happen when you let wrestlers wrestle! Fast paced. Great action. Surprise ending. I’m going 4.5 stars. Give me a match that good every Tuesday and I’m a happy camper.
2. Right now, I don’t know if any two wrestlers have better chemistry than Swerve Scott and Leon Ruff. Every time they get together, it’s electric, and this week was no different. This is quickly climbing into Rivalry of the Year territory. I thought I was happy to see Swerve pick up the victory and move on. Then Ruff goes insane in the membrane and now I’m excited to watch them fight forever.
1. This week’s That’s Why I Love Wrestling goes to…Roderick Strong. Kayfabe. Work. Shoot. I don’t care. Strong deserved a better goodbye than what he got. He is the Perfection of Performance (shout out to the Hitman). He and Kyle O’Reilly were the best version of the Undisputed Era tag team champions. I always got excited for a Strong match because I knew he’d deliver. Roderick Strong is exactly the kind of wrestler that makes me love wrestling. Until he returns, he will be sorely missed.
Steve Cook’s Fave Five: April 2021
It’s a little more than halfway through April! You know what that means…
It’s a little more than halfway through April! You know what that means.
It’s time to talk about my current five favorite wrestlers like I’m Booker T. Let’s break down the Fave Five!
5. Samoa Joe
A gentle reminder that Samoa Joe is one of the greatest talkers in the game pic.twitter.com/p4TZeZIAV7
— Kenny Majid – A Kenny For Your Thoughts Podcast (@akfytwrestling) April 15, 2021
I figure what happened between Samoa Joe & WWE was the following: WWE offered Joe an announcing contract since either they didn’t want to use him in the ring or their doctors wouldn’t clear him to wrestle. Joe looked at the contract, noticed the financial discrepancy, realized he could probably get NJPW to let him train young boys in California for that kind of money and said “thanks but no thanks”. Nothing else really makes sense to me.
Unfortunately, those who thought that WWE wouldn’t utilize Joe to their fullest potential were right. It wasn’t all WWE’s fault though. Joe had a lot of miles on his tires when he got there. Injuries are always more of a concern with larger wrestlers the older they get. And when Joe was healthy, he did get to do some good stuff and show people a glimpse of the Samoa Joe that people like me raved about back in the mid to late 2000s.
In any event, Joe got his WWE run. It was a thing that happened. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t wind up in AEW because he seems like the kind of guy Tony Khan would throw all the money at. Should be fun!
4. Kris Statlander
— All Elite Wrestling on TNT (@AEWonTNT) April 15, 2021
AEW does have a pretty insane number of factions right now. It risks the possibility of all of the groups blending together, with none of them really capturing the attention of fans. However, there are positive things about AEW’s faction warfare that shouldn’t be overlooked. It makes booking fresh matches to fill cards pretty easy. You can have groups facing off each week, but in different combinations that keep it fresh.
Another good thing: It can help us decide how we feel about characters that we might be on the fence about. Kris Statlander’s character was a topic of discussion from the moment she entered AEW. A lot of people weren’t sure how to take her. Wrestling aliens, or wrestlers who think they’re aliens, aren’t exactly common. Its the kind of thing that gets over in the indies, because those feds attract fans that are more willing to buy into unique concepts. Mainstream is a tougher sell.
Aligning Kris with the Best Friends makes sense to those in the know, since she came up working shows with them. It also helps people that don’t know about her figure out more. The Best Friends are a happy go lucky group that are the whitest of white meat babyfaces you’ll find in AEW, and that’s a good thing. They’re welcoming to people with unique personalities, as Orange Cassidy’s presence establishes. A friendly alien couldn’t ask for a better group to surround herself with, and from their appearances so far she seems like a perfect fit.
Add in the fact that the time on the shelf helped her get into better shape and refine her look & presence, and the sky’s the limit for Statlander. As long as she can stay in the ring, I’m expecting big things from her in 2021.
3. Tay Conti
Sometimes, all one needs is a change of scenery to approach their true potential. Tay spent a few years at the WWE Performance Center learning how to be a professional wrestler. During her time there, Tay never showed much in the way of potential. Even though she had a combat sports background and had the type of physical appearance that gets attention, Conti’s TV time was very limited and uneventful. She seemed like one of those wrestlers that was bound to stay in developmental until WWE gave up on them, then drop off the face of the earth without most wrestling fans noticing.
Tay’s story took a different route. She ended up being one of the cuts that AEW took an interest in, and was brought in for the Deadly Draw Women’s Tag Team Tournament. Her teaming with Anna Jay worked well on & off-camera, and she pretty much fit right in with the group immediately. She started training with Dustin Rhodes, and pretty much immediately started looking better in the ring & figuring out what worked for her. Now, she’s one of the people helping AEW’s women’s division go to a higher level.
This isn’t meant to denigrate WWE’s Performance Center or its methods. There just isn’t a wrestling training center out there that’s going to work for everybody. Tay had to find what worked for her. The people that recently got cut will have to do the same. Hopefully, the people that recently got signed by WWE will thrive in that environment.
2. Bianca Belair
We’ve recently seen three new Women’s Champions under the WWE umbrella, all of whom are great in their own way. I’ve talked about Rhea Ripley before, she’s got unlimited potential and so far she’s done very well on the main roster. Raquel Gonzalez is doing very well on NXT and her push to the championship made perfect sense & got over. I do think the best of the title changes was Bianca’s defeat of Sasha Banks in the main event of WrestleMania Saturday. It was a special moment for Bianca, a very fun match to watch, and a great performance from both Bianca & Sasha Banks, who did everything she could to make Bianca in that match.
You see the video of the NXT segment up above, with the three current Women’s Champions under the WWE umbrella celebrating together. Apparently there was a picture taken in 2019, and there were pictures taken after this week’s NXT, with Triple H making sure to get in there as he likes to do with all new champions. I’ve never really been a fan of that sort of thing, even the “Horsewomen” celebrations on previous NXT shows didn’t do much for me.
Besides the usual complaints people have about things like that, the thing that I didn’t like was how Rhea & Raquel came off. They were all smiling & happy like they were Big Daddy Cool Diesel after beating Mr. Bob Backlund in 1994. Completely against what Raquel has been up to this point, and what Rhea has been when she’s been at her best. Hopefully this is just a one-time thing for Rhea for the portion of the NXT audience that likes their lady wrestlers crying & happy after their performances, and hopefully it’s leading to Raquel getting dismembered by Dakota Kai, who can’t be happy about her heater winning the championship and then turning into Smilin’ Diesel.
Fortunately for Bianca, it does nothing to affect her character or our opinion of her. That’s why I think her title run will go best. I’m also putting her here because I’m pretty well convinced there isn’t a wrestling move or spot she can’t do well. Insanely talented, and the more experience she gets the better she’ll be.
1. Darby Allin
Sometimes you just want to watch something that’s stupid fun. Something that doesn’t need too much thought in order to enjoy it. Just people doing crazy things to entertain an audience. Darby Allin matches are just what you need when you’re looking for something like this. There isn’t anybody crazier in pro wrestling today than Darby, which is probably for the best. I’m convinced this kid has a death wish.
The one thing that kinda gets me about Darby sometimes is how he kicks out of everything. Poor Matt Hardy wasn’t going to beat that kid unless he shot him with a gun, and apparently there’s a metal detector at Daily’s Place. (Shoutout to Matt by the way, hell of an effort in that match.) But then I remember that Darby Allin is a daredevil and constantly posting videos online where he’s jumping off high places and doing crazy things. Obviously, it’s going to take a little more to beat a daredevil than your average pro wrestler.
What’s it going to take to beat Darby Allin? That’s a good reason to keep watching.
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Steve Cook’s Fave Five: April 2021
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