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Sting is Back!

Sting returned to TNT and a WWE rivals ring! What does this mean for AEW, Impact (with the implied corossover) and wrestling in 2020?

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What does it all mean?

So the big surprise of the Winter is Coming themed episode of AEW Dynamite was the return to TNT wrestling television of none other than Sting.  In what was a rare surprise nowadays (the TV appearance itself, not him coming to AEW) Sting showing up popped a lot of people and took over the twitter timeline this Wednesday. Sting stood face to face with Darby Allin in what was a cool visual and elicited a Nitro-esque (in a good way) call from Tony Schiavone.  For a few moments it was 1997 all over again.  And even as someone who has been very critical of AEW since their inception I kept any hateration I may have had at bay and didn’t crap on the moment that a lot of my friends were enjoying.

But now that the moment has passed, it’s time to start asking questions and firing off takes.  After all Sting did not show up for a one shot, he’s going to be here for a while.  So just what am I thinking, and asking here?  Let’s see:

Is he gonna wrestle?

Sting signed what is being called a full time, multiyear deal to work for AEW.  That it’s being called that and he’s not being lumped in with the other legends there (Jake Roberts, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, and Taz) suggests to me that he is going to get in the ring again.  We know that he was bummed out with the way his last match, at WWE’s 2015 Night of Champions vs Seth Rollins, went.  (If you don’t know or remember he took a buckle bomb from Rollins and it shot his neck and back to hell, leaving him barely able to get through the match).  And we also know that he chose not to have surgery because in his words it would have rendered him unable to work again,  Now it seemed like a bit of a pipe dream, a long shot that he would be able to go again but ultimately harmless.  But it sure looks like him getting back in the ring is about to be a reality soon.

At 61 years old with a jacked up neck and back, isn’t this a really bad idea?  Well………you can talk me into being ok with it if he doesn’t take any bumps.  If he swings his bat, gets a hot tag, throws some punches, and hits a Scorpion Death Drop he’ll probably be alright.  But will he be able to resist the temptation to show he can still do full service wrestling work?  I hope so because if not (warning: AEW criticism incoming) he is in the wrong company to save him from himself.  Just look at Matt Hardy as I did a few months ago here.  I think there is a safe pathway for him to see some action but I until I see it followed I remain skeptical that the great enabler Tony Khan is going to hold him to it.

What’s it mean for everyone else?

Sting is starting off in some kind of deal with Darby Allin; probably a mentor/partner to start with, but who knows?  And Cody Rhodes looks to be involved as well.  Now the sales pitch to skeptics about this kind of thing is that the old guy will give some kind of rub to whatever youngster he’s working with, and when it’s all said and done the younger guy will benefit from the association.  The track record on that is spotty at best.  The optimal scenario is something like Evolution where HHH and Ric Flair gave the space for Randy Orton and Batista to grow into bigger roles.  But what happens too often is that the older guy gets himself over while the younger guy is just kinda there to do the physical work.  And to be honest that’s already been an issue in AEW with Taz and Roberts in particular regularly overshadowing their proteges.

And what of the rest of the roster?  Dynamite is only two hours long and here’s another guy who’s going to eat up time that could be used by someone else.  AEW already has a too many people, not enough time problem and throwing even five minutes a week to Sting only makes it worse.  And then there’s the issue of overshadowing the rest of the show.  My timeline was on fire for Sting’s return, then subsequently went cold for the main event of the show, a heavily advertised World Title match between champion Jon Moxley and Kenny Omega.  Omega has been getting a multiweek character reinvention as he’s teased a return to his Cleaner persona, the match got the full contract signing treatment last week and yet nobody on my timeline seemed to care until the finish.  Sting is very likely to pop a rating spike in his segment but God help whoever has to follow him, especially in the very next segment.

What’s it mean for Dynamite?

If it wasn’t clear before then it should be now what the strategy is here.  Khan is going all in (see what I did there?) on maxing out every potential ratings point every week.  Chris Jericho was the first piece a year ago, along with judiciously spreading out the members of the Elite across the show.  Bringing in name guys like Roberts and Taz is another piece, then bringing in more recently departed WWE guys like Matt Hardy, Miro, Brodie Lee and FTR.  And now there’s Sting.  The point is to carpet bomb the two hours with these guys to keep people from changing the channel to NXT or something else.  With no real ticket sales to speak of due to COVID and not expanding the pay per view schedule the play is to max out on television revenue.  Which to be fair is probably the right strategy in the short run.

But that doesn’t bold well for the women’s division or for any of the more developmental talent there.  Khan has said that he is meticulous about ratings down to the quarter hour and is going with who draws. That’s been used as justification for minimizing the women’s time on Wednesdays, and is going to affect a lot of the guys too in that anyone who shows they can’t keep up is likely out and relegated to AEW Dark.  Will there come a point where the proverbial torches get passed to guys like Allin, Private Party, etc?  That’s the million dollar (and maybe million viewer) question.  But if I had to guess guys Sting is not here to pass any torches no matter what he says.

Final thoughts (for now)

Good for Sting.  He wanted to be a regular, felt he had something to offer, and didn’t want to settle for a WWE Legends deal.  And secured himself what is probably a real nice sized bag to close out his active career.  Sting never was really a WWE guy so this really isn’t out of the ordinary for him.  I hope he’s smart enough to not take any unnecessary chances.  And I hope that we’re all realistic with our expectations of him.  As for AEW, well…….this should put the nail in the coffin about them revolutionizing the business.  That just is not happening here.  Now who knows maybe they thought about that at first but they’ve decided their best path to success is to get well known people on their show and ride the wave of people who are fatigued or disgusted with the WWE and are more than happy to see someone else do it, even if they are largely doing a lot of the same things.  It is what it is and the game is the game.  Now we just got to see how well it works.


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Opinion

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.

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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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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.


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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!

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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.

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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