Hi, hello, and welcome to News From Cook’s Corner! It’s ya boy Steve Cook, back after a few days on the injured reserve. Would you like to read about what happened? No? Too bad, you’re going to read about it anyway.
So I’ve been having some issues with my right eye for the past few months. The upper eyelid, to be specific. First time happened during the initial stay at home order, where eye doctors were closed up and could only be reached on the phone. Got prescribed some meds, kind of got better, forgot about it for awhile. The problem flared up again a few months later, at which time I could actually go to my eye doctor. She thought it was a cold sore, and prescribed me some meds for that. It seemed likely, so I went with it and things seemed to be getting better. I even got my vision checked and got some fancy new contact lenses! Things were looking better.
Until they weren’t.
The very first new contact lens I tried to insert wound up wedged in the corner of my eye. In the process of getting it out, I scratched my eye. That’s what led to no columns from me for a week. I couldn’t look at a computer screen for very long without a good amount of pain. The scratch healed up, but I still went to see another doctor about the eyelid issue, since theoretically the cold sore should have gone away and hadn’t.
Turns out that the issue is I have some extra skin on my right eyelid. Got some extra skin on my left eyelid too, which I haven’t noticed yet. So maybe that will flare up in the next couple of months! Awesome! It is a better outcome than was previously diagnosed, and better than other outcomes I looked up on the Interweb. You know, “can you get cancer on your eyelid”, stuff like that. Just some extra skin that might get irritated! That is such a relief.
So in three months I might need to get some skin removed. It is what it is. Until then, barring other medical issues, I shall continue to provide you people with the wrestling news & views you need.
Time To Go To School!
Word came out this week that Vince McMahon is less than impressed with the in-ring work of some of the large men populating his roster. This has led to these men being sent to the Performance Center for some extra classes in order to refine their skills. PWInsider gave us a list, and two of these names stick out as somewhat surprising: Keith Lee & Otis. Surprising because Vince has reportedly been high on both men in the past, but their recent booking indicates that somebody cooled on them.
Of course, people were outraged because they don’t have any issue with Keith Lee’s ring work. Many would tell you that one of the problems with Lee’s main roster presentation is that they don’t let him do the things that made him stand out to begin with.
To be honest, none of this really bothers me. If you have a real job, you know that you can always get better at it. Companies are constantly sending employees to training that will theoretically make them more effective. (It usually doesn’t, at least from my experience.) Wrestlers used to get better by working matches on the road, but here in 2020 with no road schedule, they need to do it somewhere. Why not the Performance Center?
Sure, Keith Lee is good, and there are a ton of people on WWE’s roster that need more improvement than he does. But, if Keith Lee wants to get to the very top, he needs to get better. Everybody does. There are things Randy Orton could be better at, or Roman Reigns, or anybody else you want to name. When you stop learning and improving, there’s nowhere else for you to go.
One funny thing about this includes Lee’s involvement in some of our favorite things to talk about every single year…
Yep, it’s that time of year when we start hearing potential matches for WWE’s biggest event of the year. We heard about three of them last week…one isn’t a surprise at all, one kind of isn’t but still sounds pretty bad, and the other is kind of surprising given the previous news item.
Let’s talk about the non-surprise: Edge vs. Randy Orton. This has been rumored since the last WrestleMania, and as long as Edge is healthy to go in April, you have to figure this one will be on the card. I think everybody in the wrestling world is more excited about this match than I am, so it should be fine for them.
Then we got Roman Reigns vs. Goldberg in the match that was going to take place at this past year’s WrestleMania before the covid hit. I wasn’t exactly excited about it early in 2020, and I’m even less excited about the idea of it happening in 2021. Goldberg does bring some much needed name value though, and will be a good name to sacrifice at the altar of Roman Reigns.
The final one is kind of funny considering Keith Lee’s now in the news for Vince not liking his work, and frankly I don’t see it happening anyway. I mean, maybe Brock Lesnar would return for a triple threat against Lee & Drew McIntyre, but it doesn’t seem like the most possible scenario to me. Can’t rule it out though, WWE loves running those triple threats with one too many people at WrestleMania.
Expect More Kenny Omega in Impact Wrestling
One of the main stories I wasn’t able to write about last week was the burgeoning relationship between All Elite Wrestling & Impact Wrestling. Impact EVP Don Callis was on AEW commentary again for Kenny Omega’s championship match against Jon Moxley on December 2, and ended up assisting Kenny in his victory. Callis told the world to turn in to Impact on AXS TV to hear from the new AEW Champion, and sure enough on Tuesday night we heard from Kenny & Don. They appeared on Dynamite the next night and did largely the same promo they did on Impact, establishing Omega as the cocky, full of himself heel champion with Callis as the brain behind it all.
It’s a relationship that serves both parties. Impact is getting more attention out of all this than they have since their days on Spike TV. Their Twitch numbers on Tueday night went through the roof and they got the highest viewership they’ve had since moving the show to AXS. Tons of views on various social media platforms. My friends at offtheteam.com actually watched the show, which is quite the feat because they gave up on Impact back when it was still TNA.
Me, I like a lot of what Impact’s been doing lately. That being said, this wasn’t the best show they could have presented to a larger audience. The general opinion I’ve seen is that Impact didn’t present a strong enough show to keep people around…unless Kenny Omega is around. I will also say that OTT was very high on Rosemary. She stood out among the Impact Wrestling pack, so props to her.
So, how does this serve AEW? Well, they get to use Don Callis as Kenny Omega’s manager, and it’s a great act. Callis has always been a money promo when he’s gotten the chance to do it. The man’s just a tremendous talker and a douchebag manager in the style of all the greats like Heenan, Cornette, Heyman or whoever else you want to throw in there. There’s no doubt that Don will add an obscene amount to Kenny Omega as AEW Champion. That’s going to be good.
There’s a side benefit which I think is being under reported, but is a historical comparison more appropriate to AEW vs. Impact than WCW vs. NWO or WWF vs. WCW/ECW or whatever invasion storyline you favor. See, I was wondering how Tony Khan agreed to Kenny’s idea to help out his buddy Don’s promotion. If we’re being honest, Impact’s men’s division is nowhere near AEW’s. There are some tag teams like The North, The Good Brothers & The Motor City Machine Guns that would be great opponents for The Young Bucks, FTR or whoever. Impact’s women’s division, much like the NWA’s women’s division, is better than AEW’s. You could easily build up Deonna Purrazzo or Rosemary or Jordynne Grace or whoever for a shot at Shida, or at Serena Deeb since NWA’s women’s championship seems more important these days.
Tony Khan got to do a commercial during Impact Wrestling, alongside his man Tony Schiavone. The second I saw it, I drew comparisons to Vince McMahon doing promos for the USWA in 1993. We all know TK will be a pro wrestling character at some point. I can’t even knock him for it, since I can’t name a wrestling promoter during his lifetime that didn’t become a character. It’s a thing that happens. Tony still needs some work before he can become a character on a major promotion level, which is why this Impact Wrestling stuff is perfect for him. He can work out the kinks. Vince perfected the Mr. McMahon character in the USWA, and Tony Khan is going to figure out his character while working with Impact Wrestling. I believe that’s how Kenny & Don sold Tony on this. Tony knows he needs some reps, and a program with Impact Wrestling will allow him to work out those kinks.
A Good Night for AEW at Triplemania
AAA held Triplemania XXVIII this past Saturday night in Mexico City, and it was a good night to be an AEW wrestler. The Lucha Brothers defended AAA’s Tag Team Championship in a three-way tag team match. Brian Cage won a match as the character Terror Purpura, which will be part of AAA’s licensing deal with Marvel. Kenny Omega defended AAA’s Mega Championship against Laredo Kid in a pretty darn good match, giving AEW a clean sweep on the evening.
Surely a good sign for the AEW/AAA relationship, or maybe just a sign that AAA feels like their titles are best off being held by internationally known stars these days. Considering the state of things in Mexico, where the covid situation is seemingly getting worse by the week and there’s no reason to believe that major lucha promotions will be holding shows in full arenas anytime soon (legally, anyway), AAA is in no rush to get their championships off of Kenny Omega or the Lucha Brothers. Even in non-covid times AAA has been happy to let international talent hold their titles, figuring the titles would get more exposure that way.
Regardless, it’s nowhere near the top of the list of issues facing AAA at the moment. Last week they got sued by the company they worked with on Lucha Underground, who claim to have rights to any money that AAA makes outside of Mexico with their trademarks. Which I figure explains why you don’t see or hear more mention of AAA on AEW programming. It’s a confusing bit of business that hopefully gets resolved at some point before the LA Park/Blue Demon Jr. mask match at a future Triplemania.
NXT India, live from Orlando, India
Just because Jinder Mahal hasn’t been WWE Champion for awhile now doesn’t mean that WWE is giving up on advancing their position in India. NXT India will be launching in January, reportedly with an eight-man tournament taking place in Orlando’s Performance Center. The hope is that once 2022 rolls around, things will be at a point where WWE can have an actual location in India to train people and tape matches.
Sportskeeda reports that the tournament will feature the likes of Mahal, the Singh Brothers, and some of the other recent signees from India. This has been part of WWE’s planning for a long time now, and this won’t be the last NXT: Fill in the country. I’m just wondering if Jeff Jarrett can get himself pushed on top here, since Ring Ka King was a pretty big deal in India back in the day.
Another one of the things I missed out on writing about last week was the death of Pat Patterson. We all know Pat was the first Intercontinental Champion, winning the title in a tournament in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I saw it way back in the day on a fourth or fifth generation VHS, really good piece of business. We also know him as one of the few openly homosexual wrestlers of his generation. If you’re of my age, you remember Pat most as one of Mr. McMahon’s Stooges and his incredible chemistry with fellow Stooge Gerald Briscoe. We’ve seen plenty of flunkies for authority figures over the years, but nobody ever did it better than Pat & Gerald.
I’ll always fondly remember Pat for creating my favorite thing in the history of pro wrestling: The Royal Rumble! Pat was a key force behind the scenes throughout the 1980s & 1990s, almost anything you liked during that time period could be credited to him. You could make the argument that Pat Patterson was the most important person to the WWF/E’s success without the last name “McMahon”.
All right, that’s all the damage I feel like doing for now. Thanks for reading, and keep your stick on the ice.
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.
NXT Minus 6: About that Cole-O’Reilly match…
It was the Takeover match that held the most promise. Where did it go wrong?
It was the Takeover match that held the most promise. Where did it go wrong?
6. I was jacked to 11 for Adam Cole versus Kyle O’Reilly. I was ready to give it a Tokyo Dome 6 stars. MOTY before the bell rang. A masterwork of storytelling. I correctly predicted it would be an unsanctioned match. Then the action started, and it quickly became “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.”
5. After the first few acts of violence, it was apparent that the problem with the match would be the stipulation. The last NXT unsanctioned match was Johnny Gargano versus Tommaso Ciampa in 2018. That was 3 short years ago, but things move quickly in today’s world. There is very little chance an unsanctioned match can deliver the level of violence it promises as long as NXT is on the PG-13 Peacock.
4. Fans are losing their minds over all the content Peacock is leaving on the cutting floor. A lot of it was offensive and would never work today, but that’s not the point. The fact is there’s only so much violence Peacock’s parent company NBC will tolerate from wrestling. Take the chain, for example. Other than the clothesline, it was practically useless. O’Reilly tried to make it work, but it fell flat. In an unsanctioned match, 20 feet of heavy duty chain should be all you need to decimate another human being.
3. Maybe I’m a victim of my own wrestling memory. An unsanctioned match in Memphis in the 80’s would have been a bloodbath. Someone would have been hung over the top rope with the chain around his neck. Whipped across the back. Hog tied. Someone would have wrapped it around their fist for a few stiff shots to their opponent’s forehead. But that goes back to my original point. None of that would fly today even if NXT was only on the WWE network.
2. I’ll go so far as to say the only violent-promising stipulation that interests me is Falls Count Anywhere. There is zero drama in wrestlers pulling chairs from under the ring. The chance to use the naturally occurring environment as a weapon still holds a world of suspense. Someone is going through windows, walls, off the stage, over the guardrail, stuffed in a locker. Honestly, I’m tired of people getting hit in the stomach with folding chairs. Of all the ways to hit someone with a folding chair, that’s the least practical.
1. I’m sorry to say Kyle O’Reilly versus Adam Cole didn’t deliver what I expected. Maybe I’m in the minority. Maybe I don’t need over-the-top violence to entertain me. Maybe I don’t need wrestling to keep pushing the envelope. Five of my top 6 matches of 2021 are straight up wrestling matches. Maybe all I need is two (or three or four) strong characters and a good story. Damn, I sound old.
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