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Steve Cook’s Fave Five: December 2020

December is here, and that means Steve Cook takes a look at his Fave Five for the month!

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AJ Styles WWE Smackdown

December is here, and that means Steve Cook takes a look at his Fave Five for the month!

Usually once we hit December, we’re commenting on how the year has just flown by. I don’t think anybody’s saying that about 2020. We’ve got one month to go, let’s just hope that the changing of the calendar somehow translates to most things changing for the better. It usually doesn’t work that way, but I won’t let that stop me from hoping it does for once.

Until then, we take a look at my current Fave Five. These people are making the best out of 2020, at least recently. Hopefully their positive momentum carries forward into the new year.

5. Su Yung

Impact Wrestling ran into a bit of a problem back at Bound For Glory when Kylie Rae didn’t show up for her match with Deonna Purrazzo. Fortunately, they had a backup plan that made an amount of sense. Some weeks before, Purrazzo had broken the arm of young Susie, the meek alter ego of Su Yung. So once Deonna offered an open challenge, it was only natural that Su Yung would answer that challenge. Su won the championship because you couldn’t very well beat the Undead Bride on her first night back. Deonna got it back of course, and now we’ve got both of Su’s personalities running around.

Pretty good piece of business there. Now Deonna & Kimber Lee have recruited Father James Mitchell to help them with their problem, which I’m sure will go well. Su’s been killing it here the past few weeks, it’s nice to see her get this type of run in this role. She gets her character, and is a bit underrated in the ring.

4. Rhea Ripley

This has been somewhat of a lost year for the Nightmare, but she’s hardly alone on that front. Also, it looks like she’s regaining momentum. Whether she stays on NXT or moves to Raw or SmackDown, she should be one of the top competitors in any women’s division in 2021. I never had a problem with her losing the title, it was all in the lack of follow-up. Rhea was frustrated as well.

I could see having Ripley lose the championship to Charlotte if it was going to lead to anything at all. Triple H told us that it would, and scoffed at the idea that people would be displeased with the booking. Either H was full of stuff or he got out-voted, because the Charlotte loss led to absolutely nothing for Rhea Ripley, other than getting cooled off for a few months. I’ve talked about this before though. The important part is that Rhea has worked her way back into the swing of things, and barring any creative hiccups, should be headed back towards where she was this time in 2019.

I realize there’s an easy way this could go wrong.

3. Jon Moxley

I had always assumed that Brian Pillman would be the best wrestler to come out of Cincinnati, Ohio. If not the best, certainly the most diabolical. Jon Moxley might have Pillman beat on both of those categories.

I don’t know what it is about these Cincinnati boys being so edgy and controversial! Maybe I should know, being somewhat edgy & controversial myself. Might be something in the water. Moxley might not be AEW Champion by the time you end up reading this, but he did as good a job with the championship as one can do during a pandemic. He’s also going to be a father sometime in 2021, so pretty much everything is going all right for the guy. He made the right choice taking his career in a different direction.

2. Josh Woods

I was a big Ring of Honor fan back in the day, but took a bit of a hiatus during the Sinclair Broadcasting days. It was a late night show on a local TV affiliate, which would have been golden if I was younger, but now as an older man I need sleep. And, to be honest, ROH under Sinclair Broadcasting got away from the ROH I knew and loved back in the day.

These days, ROH is revisiting their roots. Somebody there has realized that ROH was at its best when it focused on the real sports aspect of wrestling. The pure form of wrestling, if you will. They did a whole Pure Wrestling Tournament, and are still featuring Pure Wrestling Rules at least once a week on television. They want actual wrestlers to be the stars of the promotion. Which is really good news for a young kid like Josh Woods.

He won the ROH Top Prospect Tournament back in 2017. Since then, he kind of bounced around, finding himself under the leadership of Silas Young. Say what you will about Silas, but he knows the art of pro wrestling, which is what Woods needed to make the transition complete. Not every amateur wrestler makes it big in pro wrestling. It takes truely gifted people in athletics and personality like Kurt Angle. I’m not saying Josh Woods is the next Kurt Angle, but he’s in the right place to make people think he can be. I’m buying all the stock in this kid that I can. Just a great in-ring talent that has a bit of a personality. He’ll get over big somewhere.

1. AJ Styles

I don’t think I’ve ever highlighted AJ in this column before, which is pretty amazing. I’ve always been a fan of AJ’s in-ring work. If you ask me who the best worker of the 21st century is, it’s a coin flip between AJ Styles & Daniel Bryan. Choosing between those two is a tough thing to do.

AJ is at the peak of his powers right now on Raw. The man got everybody on his Survivor Series team so together that they ran through Team SmackDown like a buzzsaw. Now he’s worked his way into getting a WWE Championship match at TLC, and he’s working all kinds of mind games. See, AJ knows that he’d have an easier night at the office beating The Miz than he would beating Drew McIntyre. He could beat Drew, no doubt, but beating Miz would be so much easier.

Once you get further along in your wrestling career, you’re looking for easier solutions to problems. We all realize we need to work smarter, not harder. Beating Drew McIntyre at 100% takes a lot of work here in 2020. It took Randy Orton fifty thousand matches or so, or at least it felt that way for those of us that had to watch them. It’s no wonder AJ would be looking for another way.

We’ve all had our tough times in 2020. AJ Styles literally got buried by the Undertaker in a Boneyard Match. He kicked out of it. We can find some strength in that.


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Opinion

Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn: Get Your Popcorn

Chris King is back as he runs down why he believes Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn at WrestleMania is a potential show-stealer.

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Chris King is back as he runs down why he believes Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn at WrestleMania is a potential show-stealer.

Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are simply incredible performers and storytellers in the ring. Every time they are on the opposite side of each other they create magic. I did a little history lesson on their almost twenty-year rivalry, going back to their days in Ring of Honor and PWG where it all began. Heel Owens to me is a stone-cold killer, he’s out for one purpose to be the best. Zayn has found out the hard way what happens when you get in his way.

Poor Zayn didn’t learn his lesson and dropped his guard in NXT when KO made his in-ring debut at NXT TakeOver: R Evolution. Owens utterly destroyed his so-called best friend and hit a vicious Pop-up Powerbomb onto the apron. KO then went on to defeat Zayn two months to the day of his debut at NXT TakeOver: Rival to capture the NXT Championship. Owens beat the living shit out of Zayn that night, to the point where the officials have to physically stop the match.

Zayn once again came rushing back for another chance to best his bitter rival but was demolished yet again. Dammit Sami just stay down and live to fight another day. This time Samoa Joe had to stop KO from causing more carnage to Zayn. We would not see the former NXT champ until months later at the 2016 Royal Rumble, where he would cost Owens the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

The two bitter rivals would fight again during the ladder match at WrestleMania 32 for the Intercontinental Championship, where Zayn would cost Owens the title. At the 2016 Payback pay-per-view, they would do battle again, Zayn would lose yet again. Zayn and Owens would square off one final time at Battleground in another hellacious battle, except this time Zayn finally got his comeuppance after two Helluva Kicks.

Over the past few years, Zayn and Owens have been on the same page, and shockingly enough the same team. The two best friends would come full circle again after Zayn returned to Friday Night SmackDown because of the pandemic. Zayn has been spurting all of this nonsense about this huge conspiracy going on around him for months now. Owens has been unsuccessfully challenging for the Universal Championship but ran into his friend backstage.

A few weeks ago, Zayn attacked his rival, for being paranoid I guess was his excuse. Owens however didn’t care and goaded him into a match at this year’s Mania. Owens and Zayn are about to create history and fulfill a lifelong dream of having a match on the Grandest Stage of Them All. I can only imagine how incredible this. the moment will be for those two, and the WWE Universe is honored and privileged to be able to experience it.

I’m very thankful that WrestleMania is two nights now because these two wouldn’t be given the appropriate amount of time if they were crammed into a seven-hour event. Please just give Owens and Zayn fifteen to twenty minutes, and let them create magic in the ring.


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Cook’s WrestleMania 37 Night Two Gambling Picks

After delivering (and standing?) his Takeover and WrestleMania Night 1 picks, Steve Cook is back with Night 2. For (sports) entertainment purposes only!

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WrestleMania 27 Stage

After delivering (and standing?) his Takeover and WrestleMania Night 1 picks, Steve Cook is back with Night 2. For (sports) entertainment purposes only!

Welcome back to the gambling picks!

If you missed Night 1, go ahead and click here!

I’m not going to lie to you guys, I’m already a bit peeved at WWE.

Why? Because they rendered part of my Night 1 pick column useless when they made Sasha vs. Bianca the main event after saying Drew vs. Bobby was! Like, what the hell man? At least I’m pretty confident they won’t change the main event of Night 2, so let’s make some picks for entertainment purposes only!

Kevin Owens (-350) vs. Sami Zayn (+225)

Independent wrestling fans would have never seen all this coming a decade or so ago. Kevin Owens as a babyface? Sami Zayn as a heel, without a mask? A YouTube personality as part of the build while Steve Corino agents away & Colt Cabana chills with the Super Smash Brothers? I’d have a hard time explaining all this to 10 Years Ago Me.

Not that this would be at the top of the list of things to warn 10 Years Ago Me about. Just saying…this is all wild stuff.

Kevin Owens is the likely winner as Sami gets punked out by his “buddy” Logan Paul. Slight chance Sami pulls the upset, but I doubt it’s worth throwing fake money on.

Randy Orton (+500) vs. The Fiend (-950)

I haven’t had a lot to say about this feud since it started, and that trend continues here. Not for me, and since I won’t be watching live I’ll surely be skipping ahead of this one. Hopefully those who are into this type of thing have fun.

Fiend likely wins, but if you really wanna throw a few bucks on Randy Orton at +500, maybe it’ll pay off.

United States Championship Match
Riddle (-160) vs. Sheamus (+120)

We can certainly question the methods WWE is using to feature Riddle, but it’s clear that they see something in him and want him to be a big deal. Sheamus has had a strong 2021 so far, and will give Riddle a good match and a big win for his first WrestleMania appearance.

I don’t have much else to add here. Should be hard-hitting.

Intercontinental Championship Nigerian Drum Fight
Big E (+120) vs. Apollo Crews (-140)

As we all know, the  “Nigerian Drum Fight” goes back to the early days of the legendary Nigerian pro wrestler Power Uti. If you’re not familiar with Uti, many consider him to be to the Nigerian Wrestling Federation what Undertaker has been to WWE over the years. They have a ton in common, including holding victories in major specialty matches over Mick Foley.

In the original incarnation of the Nigerian Drum Fight, the object of the match was to bash your opponent’s head into a drum in each corner of the ring. The first to hit all four corners in succession won the match. It looks like WWE is shifting the rules somewhat, and are just doing the typical No DQ thing they like to do. I assume that drums will still be legal, but am unsure of the spear.

If the spear is legal, go with Crews. I get the feeling that Big E is in line for the win here, and thus is my pick, especially since he’s the underdog.

Raw Women’s Championship Match
Asuka (+250) vs. Rhea Ripley (-400)

Once upon a time, Asuka was the new star fresh out of NXT looking to make an impact at WrestleMania. She won the Royal Rumble, but ended up losing at WM to Charlotte Flair. It happens. Just ask Rhea, who lost to Charlotte at last year’s WM. The best news for either of these two is that WWE avoided the urge to insert Charlotte in this match, as we know who the betting favorite would be then.

(Well, we think they’ve avoided the urge. Won’t be sure until the bell rings.)

I’m a big Rhea fan and am definitely supporting the Nightmare here. We all know that Asuka’s days as champion are numbered, as she’s seemed like an afterthought for most of her reign. However, there are reasons to believe that Asuka could get it done here. Mostly, the fact that her feud with Charlotte isn’t over yet.

Nah, I gotta stick with Rhea Ripley here. I’m not sure how Vince & the main roster creative folks feel about Rhea, but they probably haven’t had enough time to turn against her yet.

Universal Championship Triple Threat Match
Roman Reigns (+150) vs. Edge (+115) vs. Daniel Bryan (+200)

This is the first WrestleMania main event in a long time where the favorite doesn’t seem super obvious on paper. For one thing, there’s no reason for Roman Reigns to lose the Universal Championship. He’s superb in the role right now and should sit at the head of the table as long as possible.

Then there’s Edge, who against most other champions would be the obvious favorite. He’s making his big comeback complete by main eventing WrestleMania. Having him win only makes sense, and there are plenty of ways to go with it after, whichever side of the fence you want to put him on.

Daniel Bryan is the longest shot in this match, but we all know that’s when he’s at his most dangerous. One last run on top for Bryan wouldn’t be met with many arguments, and you can set whoever you want with him after & it’ll work.

Any of these picks are a winner in my book. I’m going to go with Roman Reigns because it isn’t often you’ll get those kind of odds on him. Usually he’s the heavy favorite, and for good reason. I wouldn’t be surprised by any outcome here, and that’s what makes this match a true main event.


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