Steve Cook jumps into July with is favorite 5 things, all thanks to Booker T!
If you’re anything like me, you’re looking for some bright spots.
Fortunately, there are plenty out there to talk about. I know that most things about the world suck right now, and there’s no sign that those things will get much better. We need to find some bright sides to get through, and even if some aspects of pro wrestling suck, there will always be some pro wrestlers to shine through. Booker T probably has his own Fave Five, but here are mine.
5. Deonna Purrazzo
I’ve gotten back into watching Impact Wrestling lately, at least when I’m at home to watch the show. There are some decent things on the show, but I would be lying if I said the highlight was anything but the Virtuosa. I’ve been impressed by Deonna Purrazzo since the first time I saw her, and have always assumed she would be one of the top female stars in the business. I saw nothing from her stint with WWE/NXT to convince me otherwise, but there wasn’t much there. For whatever reason, WWE brass wasn’t sold on her. I would tell you why if I had any idea why. Purrazzo has the work, she has the look, and from the limited chances she’s had, she has the voice too. From everything I’ve seen, Deonna is the Total Package.
Deonna has outclassed everybody else in Impact so far. That might make some Jordynne Grace fans mad, but it’s a true story. Purrazzo should be the next Impact Wrestling Knockouts Champion at Slammiversary, if not, she should be in AEW knocking on Hikaru Shida’s door sooner rather than later.
4. Hiromu Takahashi
New Japan Pro Wrestling is back in full force with their New Japan Cup tournament. I won’t tell you I’ve watched every match. I’ve watched the matches I wanted to see, and most of them involved the Ticking Time Bomb, Hiromu Takahashi.
Takahashi had an interesting road. His second round matchup with Yano sounds like a night off for most, but Yano terrorized Takahashi while he was a Young Lion. As much as Kevin Kelly wanted to tell us that Yano changed since then, Takahashi was not as sold. Frankly, as many times as random scissors appeared during the match, we can’t blame Takahashi for not being sold. Takahashi vanquished that demon, then met BIG TOM Ishii. A tough draw, but Takahashi got through it somehow. Then he met up with Okada, and that was it because, well, it was Okada. Takahashi will need to pack on twenty or so pounds before he can beat Okada. I wish the American culture was as open to added weight as the Japanese culture is. All I know for sure is that Takahashi has an incredibly bright future.
3. Hikaru Shida
What do Penelope Ford, Britt Baker & Nyla Rose have in common, other than being viable AEW women’s division heels? They each had the best match of their lives with Hikaru Shida. That’s the common denomenator. When one of these hot AEW heels get to work with Shida, that’s when everybody realizes how great they are.
Even that freaky Abadon stood out when she wrestled Shida. Anna Jay got a job after wrestling Shida. Let’s be honest here. AEW’s women’s division got knocked early on, and people started buying in after Shida started making people. Every division needs somebody that can make everybody else, and that’s what Shida is doing for AEW. While still being a credible champion.
411 asked me if I could fill in for some of Larry Csonka’s recapping duties. We all know nobody really can, and my schedule keeps me from covering most of the shows. I made a recommendation or two, and I also agreed to cover the ROH TV show since I knew I would be able to cover it for awhile. Not like the Cincinnati Reds will let me work for them anytime soon on a Saturday night, and you couldn’t pay me to go into a bar on a Saturday night in this climate.
ROH has been presenting some best ofs lately, which makes regular viewers mad, but makes me happy because it lets me catch up! I was big into ROH in the 2000s, not so much in the 2010s. One of the first people I wasn’t too familar with that caught my attention was Bandido. Dude had a killer moveset, a good look & a good mask. Then he got his own show, and I was impressed by everything he did. He even appeared on a show afterwards, and was still good. I am convinced that ROH should build around him. If you haven’t seen Bandido yet, you really need to. I’m telling you, this guy checks all the boxes outside of that promo ability, and he’s got some time to work on that.
1. Sasha Banks
Speaking of somebody that checks all the boxes. I kind of wanted to include Bayley, and Bayley has done a great job as a heel lately, but I also feel like Sasha warrants some individal recognition here. Y’all got mad at her for a minute because she walked out & somebody made up a story to explain it, but she’s been better than ever since that walkout. Maybe that tells us people need time off? Makes sense to me.
There isn’t a WWE Superstar more interesting than Sasha at the moment. She’s got the Women’s Tag Team Championship with Bayley. Bayley also has the SmackDown Women’s Championship, so Sasha targeted the Raw Women’s Championship. Makes sense. We’re also working the slow build with Sasha & Bayley facing off. It’s slow, but when it happens it’ll matter even more, and at this point there’s no reason for it to happen until there is an audience.
There’s also the matter we discussed in a column a couple of weeks ago. Sasha was a class act while dealing with the Sammy Guevara issue, and that brought my respect for her to another level. As much as people wanted to disparage her character to me while she was on the outs with WWE, I always saw it as somebody standing up for herself. As far as I’ve seen, Sasha Banks is a person of character & dignity. That’s what we need from a top star.
Cook’s NXT War Games 2021 Gambling Picks
Everyone might not love NXT 2.0, but we all love money! Cook brings us the gambling picks for WarGames just in case anyone wants to roll the dice on making some cash.
NXT is presenting their first Network special of the 2.0 era today. It’s the first non-TakeOver special in quite sometime, as NXT starts a new era with the latest edition of War Games. We’ll see lot of experienced talent taking on some not-so-experienced talent. Should be interesting, and it could be even more interesting if you want to put your money where your mouth is!
Odds provided by BetOnline
Hair vs. Hair
Cameron Grimes (-120) vs. Duke Hudson (-120)
Step 1: Shave Duke bald
— Cameron Grimes (@CGrimesWWE) December 1, 2021
Grimes is one of those guys who can excel in most environments you put him in. Whether it’s the Old or the New NXT, he fits in quite well doing what he does. I’m honestly not too familiar with Duke Hudson outside of his work here in NXT, but apparently he was a big deal in his native country of Australia. We all know that Australians are taking over the wrestling world, so it’s tough to bet against Hudson being a big deal here in America eventually. Especially since he’s got the billed height & weight that WWE wants out of its Superstars.
So if you’re asking me who has the brighter future with this company, I would say “Duke Hudson”. If you’re asking me who needs their hair more, I would say “Cameron Grimes”. Hudson’s look might benefit from a trim, so expect Cameron Grimes to take it to the moon.
Men’s War Games Match
Bron Breakker, Carmelo Hayes, Grayson Waller & Tony D’Angelo (-200) vs. Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano, Pete Dunne & LA Knight (+150)
— WWE NXT (@WWENXT) December 1, 2021
It’s New School vs. Old School, 2.0 vs. Black & Gold or whatever fun names you want to give these teams meant to signify the different eras of NXT. Ciampa & Gargano have been two of NXT’s top stars for most of the past several years. Dunne ran things over in the UK. LA Knight…well, he isn’t exactly one of the top names in NXT’s history, but he’s an established veteran that NXT fans know from other places. He’s been around a while, while these young whipper-snappers haven’t.
Of course, the idea of this match is to make a young whipper-snapper or two. Bron seems to be the chosen one, so I’d be shocked if he wasn’t beating somebody into submission or oblivion to end this thing. Most likely Gargano since he’s the one that has an expiring contract. Team 2.0 should get the win here. Keep an eye on Ciampa here though. I feel like they want him to be the heel against Bron, and a good way to do that would be to have Ciampa beat up Gargano after the match. You know, to give his DIY partner a proper send-off.
NXT Tag Team Championship Match
Imperium (-200) vs. Kyle O’Reilly & Von Wagner (+150)
— WWE (@WWE) December 1, 2021
Another one of those matches where contract issues have to be considered. Nobody would really think of KOR & Von as a long-term team under normal circumstances. Since Kyle’s contract comes up sometime this month, we can go ahead and assume that tag team isn’t lasting past…this match? Sounds about right to me.
Imperium wins. Also, I don’t get Von Wagner’s name. He sounds like he should be part of Imperium but he’s actually from Minnesota.
NXT Cruiserweight Championship Match
Roderick Strong (-185) vs. Joe Gacy (+140)
I see that the NXT universe has decided to weight shame me. This is why I’m doing what I am doing!
— Joe Gacy (@JoeGacy) November 24, 2021
Joe Gacy is tired of your bodyshaming. I must say, as one that has had difficulty with their weight and been bodyshamed by my peers on countless occasions, I understand where he’s coming from. Part of me wants him to beat Rod Strong and claim the Cruiserweight Championship for all of us who have been discriminated against just because we eat a little more than the average person. Then the other part of me thinks that Rod Strong is a much better professional wrestler and deserves to have a title belt around his skinny waist. So it’s a tough call.
When in doubt, I go with the guy getting the push. Sure, the Diamond Mine has been getting some TV time, but Gacy’s doing what Vince & Bruce want, getting some attention from the lamestream Fox media. Roll with the underdog here, and if you’re one of those people whining about Joe Gacy not weighing 205 or under…be thankful that he hasn’t targeted the Women’s Championship in his crusade against barriers.
Women’s War Games Match
Raquel Gonzalez, Io Shirai, Cora Jade & Kay Lee Ray (-125) vs. Toxic Attraction & Dakota Kai (-115)
— Mandy (@WWE_MandyRose) December 1, 2021
Toxic Attraction has been one of the focal points of NXT 2.0. It’s not the worst idea they’ve ever had. Mandy Rose, Gigi Dolin & Jacy Jayne have a lot going for them. It’s tough to take your eyes off of them for too long. I think we can all agree they’re pretty great…until the bell rings. Then things are a bit more debatable. War Games isn’t exactly a match you would expect them to fare well in, which has led to much complaining over their inclusion in this match.
Thing is, that’s part of the reason to be interested in this match. We don’t know how Toxic Attraction will fare. We figure Dakota Kai knows what’s up. Certainly, the likes of Io Shirai, Kay Lee Ray & Raquel Gonzalez will be just fine. Cora Jade? Well, she’s a youngster, but War Games seems like something she’d be into. Perhaps our worrying is for nothing, and Toxic Attraction are at least as ready for this thing as we presume Cora Jade is. I’m willing to give it a chance.
As for a winner, the non-Toxic Attraction team is the way to go here, ideally setting up a challenger for Mandy’s championship.
News From Cook’s Corner 11.29.21: Turkey Hangover
Holidays and wrestling go hand in hand, but what kind of news popped up? Cook brings us his favorite headlines of the week!
Hi, hello & welcome to News From Cook’s Corner! I’m Steve Cook, and it looks like it was a pretty quiet week as far as wrestling news goes. Nobody got fired, for one thing. Most of us went home and gorged ourselves on turkey. We watched tons & tons of football. The Bengals beat the Steelers by 31 points. Louisville lost to Kentucky by 31 points, so things pretty much evened out for me. Things tend to.
The wrestling news cycle this weekend consisted of wrestlers throwing out crazy things they want to happen. Big E wants the Undertaker to dance with New Day. Ric Flair wants to wrestle Sammy Guevara in Israel. I want a million bajillion dollars. Not much we can do with any of that.
Big week coming up though!
Well, maybe. BetOnline hasn’t posted any NXT WarGames matches yet, so we’ll have to keep an eye on that as a potential column goes. There is some interesting news regarding that, as Johnny Gargano signed a week-long contract extension so he could work that show. We’ve seen that recently with people like Adam Cole, signing short-term contract extensions so they can finish their business with the company. Gargano’s wife Candice LeRae’s contract expires in May 2022, but one wonders if they would extend her contract due to her missing time with her pregnancy. Maybe this doesn’t become an issue and they both stay with WWE, most likely as part of NXT helping the young kids learn.
I assume AEW would be an option for Gargano & LeRae given their connection with the Young Bucks back in the day. That men’s roster’s kinda crowded though, so it’s tough to say which would be the better option for fans of Johnny’s work.
Who says WWE Superstars don’t get heat anymore?
Probably the most newsworthy thing to happen on WWE television this week was Seth Rollins getting attacked by a fan on Monday’s Raw episode. Rollins was backing away from the ring after beating up Finn Balor when a fan managed to enter from stage right, run down and tackle Rollins in the entranceway.
This angle of the “fan” attacking Seth Rollins from @kash_vL is pretty crazy
— Chris Van Vliet (@ChrisVanVliet) November 23, 2021
Who was this guy, anyway? Elisah Spencer is a 24 year old from Red Hook. No word on whether he’s friends with Hook or not. He was a big Seth Rollins fan at some point, and met him a few years ago and felt a connection. So he tried to get in touch with Rollins on social media, since apparently that’s where people talk to wrestlers. Turns out, the person he thought was Seth Rollins was actually a scammer, and got Spencer to spend $3,000 on WWE gift cards & tickets. Spencer’s girlfriend at the time (who I’m sure was a really perceptive invividual) ended up getting arrested when she tried to pay for the tickets with a bad check.
So there was a beef there. Somehow this all turned into a situation where Goldberg & Vince McMahon booked Spencer to be there, while keeping it a secret from Rollins. Apparently he’s also related to Roman Reigns, Rikishi, the Rock and the rest of the Bloodline, and he did it for them. Big Finn Balor fan now too.
Spencer was charged with attempted assault and an “attempted violation of arts and cultural affairs”. So there you have it, the answer to the debate of whether or not pro wrestling is art.
AAA MegaChampionship Update!
Last week in this column we mentioned how Kenny Omega wouldn’t be able to defend AAA’s top championship at their upcoming TripleMania Regia event due to various injuries he’s taking time off for. Shortly afterward, AAA announced that the MegaChampionship would be vacated, and a new champion would be determined at TripleMania Regia in a five-way. Why a five-way? Honestly, I have no idea. For all I know, El Santo used to compete in five-ways all the time back in the day. Maybe there were five Aztec coins. Don’t know.
I do know the five men scheduled to compete for this thing: El Hijo del Vikingo, Samuray del Sol, Jay Lethal, Bobby Fish & Bandido. Vikingo was originally scheduled to challenge for the championship, so that makes sense. Bandido is an interesting addition since he’s ROH Champion and hasn’t competed for AAA since 2018. His ROH deal is up soon though, and we’re not exactly bullish on the future of that promotion. Back in 2012 when SdS was working the indies, AAA brought him in and repackaged him as Octagon Jr.. Octagon Jr. was originally intended to feud with another debuting wrestler patterned after a name from AAA’s past: Pentagon Jr.. That didn’t last too long, as SdS had a pretty busy schedule even before signing with WWE and didn’t have time to make AAA shows.
Neither Jay Lethal nor Bobby Fish have competed in AAA. They are the foreign talent brought in to generate interest. We’ll find out if they do, as FITE is offering part of this card on their website for $19.99. This seems to indicate that the lawsuit with the Lucha Underground folks has been settled to some extent. Or AAA is hoping they can pull this off without anybody noticing. It would be nice to have AAA readily available here in the US again, or at least some type of lucha libre show with solid production values.
The most recent Young Bucks Twitter bio update let us know that their contract with AEW has rolled over. The Bucks will be with the company until at least 2024, which comes as little surprise to most of us. WWE isn’t going to make them Executive Vice Presidents, nor feature tag team wrestling in any kind of meaningful way. As awesome as RK-Bro vs. Young Bucks matches would surely be, we’ll have to wait until 2024 before we see them.
The Bucks celebrated by taking the week off from Being the Elite. Understandable, especially since I don’t think they made last week’s taping.
Welp, that’s all we have time for this week. Darn turkey’s still making me sleepy. Thanks for reading, and until next time, keep your stick on the ice.
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