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Opinion

Booking Backwards: Understanding Naito/Ibushi/White and Roman/Pearce/Nakamura

Greg DeMarco lends his booking expertise to recent storylines to help you understand what’s happening, and how to watch it moving forward.

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Roman Reigns Adam Pearce Shinsuka Nakamura WWE Royal Rumble Smackdown Jey Uso Paul Heyman

Greg DeMarco lends his booking expertise to recent storylines to help you understand what’s happening, and how to watch it moving forward.

Booking in pro wrestling is an often discussed topic among hardcore fans all over, much like play calling in the NFL. Every fan thinks they’re a better coach than the actual coach, and many wrestling fans feel the same way about the bookers around the world, especially WWE–and more increasingly, New Japan.

As someone with 17 years of experience inside the actual business, someone who is responsible for marketing, promoting, and yes booking local wrestling events–events that sell out in advance mind you–I feel qualified to share some perspective with you on just how this all works, and do so in hopes that you will be better equipped to understand what you are watching.

Or at least enjoy it, because jeez man–some of y’all already hate the product before even turning on the television! (Or computer.)

What “Booking Backwards” Means…

You have most likely heard the term “booking backwards,” but you might not fully understand it. Simply put, it’s knowing the point that you want to get to, and working to get there. Many mistake this for literally working backwards from a certain point–that’s not how it actually works.

What it does mean is knowing where you want to end up, and then writing to get there.

And before I go any further, let me clarify “writing” vs. “booking” for you. Booking is the overall direction, say “Steve Austin beats The Rock at WrestleMania to become champion.” Booking also provides the milestones for how you get there, say “Mankind beats The Rock for the WWF Championship on Raw, thanks to Austin, and Rock regains it at the Royal Rumble, Vince wins the Rumble but loses the title shot to Austin in a cage match at the February PPV, Mankind stays involved as the referee for the ‘Mania main event along the way.”

Writing is what you do between milestones, be it weekly as in WWE, or show-to-show as in New Japan.

It’s a different process for many, but it IS a process. And understanding the process will help you understand what you are watching. Just like understanding the philosophy behind play calling will help you understand your favorite NFL team–and realize that very few play calls live individually.

Understanding Wrestle Kingdom: Tetsuya Naito, Kota Ibushi, and Jay White

It was really easy to question the booking decision of having Jay White beat Kota Ibushi for New Japan’s G1 briefcase, then having Tetsuya Naito give Ibushi a title shot on Wrestle Kingdom Night 1 “just because.” It made little sense at the time, and even had me left wondering why you don’t have Ibushi challenge Naito for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship on Night 1, and White challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship on Night 2. In two nights, you separate the two championships, and “fix” the Intercontinental Championship that has been seemingly “hurt” since last year’s Double Dash concept for Wrestle Kingdom in 2020.

But again, in doing that, I assumed the end goal was to separate the titles, re-elevate the Intercontinental Championship, and keep the Heavyweight Championship on Naito. In reality, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Hindsight tells us what New Japan’s goal was here:

  • Crown Kota Ibushi as the new champion
  • Have a Heavyweight Championship match close each night of Wrestle Kingdom 2021
  • Effectively write Jay White out of storylines (either temporarily or permanently)
  • Fully merge the Intercontinental and Heavyweight Championships
  • (Possible) bring more focus to the other singles titles like the NEVER Openweight Championship and the IWGP United States Championship

Now, assuming this is all true, let’s take a look at what happened:

  • Kota Ibushi won the G1 Climax, for the second year in a row, and is fully under contract to New Japan
  • Jay White beat Kota Ibushi for the G1 briefcase, something that has never happened in the history of said item
  • Tetsuya Naito, a two-time G1 Climax winner himself, wants to face the winner of the G1 at Wrestle Kingdom, so he gives Kota Ibushi the shot at Night 1 of Wrestle Kingdom, Jay White (holding the briefcase) basically says “have it your way” and awaits the winner on Night 2
  • Koti Ibushi beats Tetsuya Naito to win both championships on Night 1 of Wrestle Kingdom, and then goes on to successfully defend both titles against Jay White on Night 2 in a 48-minute classic

Congruently, see what else happened:

  • Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and the Guerillas of Destiny all won their respective matches on Night 1, leaving the spotlight for Hiromu Takahashi, Shingo Takagi, Jeff Cobb, EVIL, and SANADA to all get the bigger spotlight on Night 2.
  • KENTA retained the United States Championship briefcase, and Jon Moxley (the reigning IWGP United States Champion, if you’d forgotten, and I wouldn’t blame you) challenged him to a title match.

It’s not obvious along the way, and it really shouldn’t be. It’s like watching a mini-series, you want the twists and turns along the way, and it’ll all make sense in the end. Whether or not it’s good, or you like how it turned out, is up to you! But evaluate the whole thing based on its overall merit.

Understanding SmackDown: Roman Reigns, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Adam Pearce

This Friday on SmackDown, Roman Reigns opened the show by basically cementing an issue between he and “WWE Official” Adam Pearce, one that we figured would get physical, but one we didn’t figure would end up with Adam Pearce vs. Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble.

But for the sake of this activity–and this one is smaller than New Japan’s above–let’s take Roman Reigns defending the Universal Championship against Adam Pearce at Royal Rumble as our end goal. It’s likely a milestone along the Road To WrestleMania (that’s another article altogether), but it still works.

Let’s see what happened:

  • WWE announced a Gauntlet Match for the January 8 edition of WWE SmackDown, with the winner getting a shot at Roman Reigns and the WWE Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view
  • Roman Reigns insinuated that the Gauntlet was done maliciously by WWE Official Adam Pearce (who had a hell of a year on television in 2021) and suggested that Pearce himself wanted the shot
  • Paul Heyman pulled some strings to get Adam Pearce added to said Gauntlet
  • Shinsuke Nakamura wins the “proper” portion of the Gauntlet, beating multiple opponents along the way, including Daniel Bryan, who gives him the babyface handshake to put him over
  • Roman Reigns and Jey Uso take out Nakamura and eventually Pearce, placing Pearce on top for the three count and basically booking Roman vs. Pearce for the Royal Rumble

Now it’s easy to see Shinsuke Nakamura as the loser here, because we were “supposed” to get Roman Reigns vs. Shinsuke Nakamura at the Royal Rumble, dammit! But you have to realize, that was NEVER the plan, the plan is to get to Roman vs. Pearce, and probably Roman vs. Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania. Shinsuke Nakamura likely gets his shot as a milestone in the story, and Adam Pearce probably gets some teeth as an authority figure.

Realizing that the plan was never Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble helps, and also know that Roman Reigns likely retains at WrestleMania, leaving Nakamura as a great program for the Tribal Chief down the road.

See The Full Picture First

It’s easy to complain about booking along the way, and it’s always easy to complain about writing. Sometimes, the complaints might be valid. But as I hope you can learn from this article, see the whole thing out before making up your mind. Wrestling fans online have a habit of driving themselves crazy. It’s not necessary, and with a little perspective you can go back to enjoying this thing as much as you used to.


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Opinion

AJ’s Thoughts: Five Potential Returns

With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?

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With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?

With everything going on with WWE, the one thing we have all been hyped about are all of these returns. Dakota Kai made her return at SummerSlam alongside Io and Bayley and now on last SmackDown, Karrion Kross and Scarlett made their returns in a big way against Drew McIntyre and showed the Hourglass to The Bloodline.

With all of that, there have been things in the pipeline saying Triple H’s foot isn’t off the pedal so these are 5 returns from either NXT, main roster or even Try-Outs that I would love to see happen with the new regime.

1. Johnny Gargano

Now this is a name that people have been saying, “Maybe Impact or MLW” but, what about a return? Gargano didn’t renew his contract, most likely to be with his family which is a valid and amazing reason, will never disrespect that. If he were to return, there would be a handful of great reasons. Maybe a singles run with the Intercontinental or United States but with Ciampa getting limelight in the main roster from RAW, what if we get a tag team reunion?

WWE is hurting for Tag Teams and what better than to scare off The Bloodline, loosen  the stranglehold of championships with some Do It Yourself action. DIY reunion could be amazing, especially with newer faces showing up to get championship aspirations like Kross and Ciampa. Want to break the hierarchy? Do It Yourself.

2. James Storm

This one is a little bit weird and off. On one hand, who doesn’t love the Tennessee Cowboy, Jimmy James Storm? On the other, he is 45 and getting some nagging injuries as of late. So why would I say Triple H should bring James Storm back and give him something for the main roster? One of the things I said for Gargano, we have a lack of something and The Usos might need to watch two things in the rearview.

Watch your Money and your Alcohol.

Beer Money showing up in WWE would be amazing in my personal opinion. The Bloodline jump Roode, someone in a hoodie or jacket comes up and jumps them to even the fight and as soon as one Uso remained in the ring, the figure goes down and the old stomping goes off and we hear “BEER…” and Roode looks around and gets hyped up and shouts, “…MONEY!”

3. Big Cass



Since his departure from WWE, he has done something I have said since they split him off from Enzo. Take him through the Kevin Nash School of How To Big Man. ROH and Impact are great examples that he actually cleaned up and worked on what he has to do to be good in the ring. He can work the microphone, he can work the ring so we got a new big boy to take on the WWE once again.

Now I could have said Enzo and Cass to rejoin but, I’m sure the antics of Enzo will get Cass in deep water along with the fact that I already made two tag team predictions, we don’t need another. Cass brings a lot to the table and was kind of unproven in WWE because he was just the big enforcer to the more charismatic Enzo. Give this man about six months in the ring and you have your next MASSIVE problem in the IC or US Championship scene or even more.

4. Bronson Reed



The big man from down under is a former NXT North American Champion. He looked to have a good push going with that championship but he got release. If you wonder where he went… he actually made a pit stop in Impact Wrestling as JONAH with the most fire theme song in recent history I swear… I will link the theme song and Trips… please. Get rights to this theme song. I will be a bigger Bronson Reed fan.

Bronson to me is the weird man in all of this but, I think with Triple H involved, he could get something going for him with a good singles champion run or a big threat to go through like a gatekeeper of sorts. Big boy with a great amount of athleticism? Can’t really hate on that considering the last time we saw athletic bigger people were Keith Lee and… what was that one guy? Sherman Tank with a Ferrari Engine…?

5. Bray Wyatt

And the last one is the obvious one in all of this. Yes… we have Judgment Day as the somewhat supernatural dark group but we know the true successor of the supernatural and that is “The Eater of Worlds”, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt. This time around, I don’t think we will get the Jekyl and Hyde, Mister Rogers gimmick. I believe this time around we get full darkness and mayhem. We get the darkness and the theory of reverting back to your prime.

To make a refresher… Miz went back to being the cocky narcissist after fighting The Fiend. Finn turned back to the Prince and much more. With guys like Edge returning, maybe we see the return of the Heel Ultimate Opportunist, maybe a Fiend fight with AJ Styles to get the TN-AJ perhaps. Possibilities are endless and with a great mind like Wyatt for character and execution, I think Hunter will pick up the phone and Let Him In.

– There are clearly others that I could say, or maybe even didn’t think about, but hey, that’s the Chairshot way of Always Using Your Head. Those are just five returns that could happen and hopefully you read this before RAW or SmackDown and who knows if I get any of these right, maybe I missed an obvious one or maybe we get a giant signing that nobody thought possible. Let me and all of Chairshot know!


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Opinion

King’s Greatest Hits Of Jeff Hardy

As he battles his demons, Chris King looks at some more positive moments in Jeff Hardy’s career!

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Jeff Hardy WWE Smackdown

I’m sure by now you’ve heard the disturbing news that former WWE superstar and recent AEW signee Jeff Hardy, was arrested again for multiple charges including a DUI.  Hardy has had a hard and tragic road of recovery throughout the years in multiple wrestling promotions.

Not too long ago, Hardy walked out on WWE after they were rumored to have offered the former world champion to go to treatment for his substance abuse issues. Hardy refused and said that he was better but, as we saw the demons are still lurking and got the best of him again.

I have seen some nasty comments and even some distasteful memes about the AEW superstar and felt compelled to go against the grain. Instead of kicking a man when he’s down, I’m going to put together a greatest hits for the “Charismatic Enigma.”

Jeff Hardy & The TLC Match

Everyone can say that Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon helped innovate the iconic ladder match and you are right, but Jeff Hardy and his death-defying stunts changed the concept of the match forever. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. Edge & Christian and their iconic TLC match should have their wing in the Hall of Fame. The risks all six superstars took for the adoration of the crowd could have ended all of their illustrious careers. In the words of Vince McMahon, It’s such good shit!

Jeff Hardy Earns The Undertaker’s Respect

On the July 1st, 2002 episode of Monday Night Raw, Hardy delivered the performance of a lifetime nearly winning the WWE Undisputed Championship from The Undertaker in an incredible ladder match. The young up-and-comer was faced with his greatest task yet, challenging for the most prestigious title in sports entertainment. Hardy showed that without a shadow of a doubt he deserved to be in the main event scene, but came within minutes of defeating Taker. At the time of the match, Hardy was still finding his footing as a singles competitor and earned the respect of the champion and legend.

Swanton Bomb From The Heavens

When I think of the daredevil Jeff Hardy, I can’t help but think of this one crazy-as-hell stunt. At WWE One Night Stand 2008, Hardy faced off against the juggernaut Umaga in a falls count anywhere match. This match was so insane as both superstars fought into the parking lot. Hardy is one of the craziest and bravest superstars, hit a Swanton Bomb off a damn stage truck onto Umaga. It’s one of the wildest things you’ll ever see.

Hardy Wins The WWE Championship 

In 2008, Hardy finally made his way to the main event title picture alongside partner Triple H. HHH was Hardy’s mentor in some sort of way which led to the daredevil achieving his lifelong dream of becoming WWE champion. At the 2008 Armageddon pay-per-view, Hardy would face HHH and longtime rival Edge in a triple-threat match for the title. In what was a great match between all three superstars, Hardy delivered a Swanton Bomb to Edge to win the illustrious championship.

Straight Edge Problems For Hardy

The following year, Hardy found himself in the way of young-up-and-comer CM Punk who is looking to make an example out of him. Punk had won the Money in the Bank briefcase for the second year in a row and took advantage of Hardy to win the world title. What started as mutual respect between both superstars changed drastically, when Punk started throwing jabs at Hardy for his drug and substance abuse real-life issues. Punk would form his infamous stable known as the Straight Edge Society. This is a very underrated feud and you should go back and watch it in its entirety. The promos are gold.

The Hardy Boyz Return To WWE

Both Matt and Jeff Hardy found success in multiple other wrestling promotions including Ring of Honor, and TNA during their time away from WWE. Both brothers were struggling with their vices and made poor life choices but straightened up their act over the years. In 2017, the Hardy Boyz would face longtime rivals The Young Bucks in ROH. The following night the adored tag team would make their incredible return to WWE at WrestleMania 33. Matt and Jeff would be named the final team in the Fatal 4-way ladder match for the Raw Tag Team Championships. The pop these two received was insane and very much deserved. They would go on to win the match and win the titles to capitalize on their momentum.

Jeffery Nero Hardy Makes AEW Debut

From 2017-to 2022 Jeff Hardy would find himself pigeonholed in the mid-card title picture. He would have feuds with a plethora of superstars including Samoa Joe, and Randy Orton. Orton and Hardy had a nasty Hell in a Cell match back in 2018. Earlier this year, Hardy was seen running around after the 24/7 Championship, which was disappointing to see. After being genuinely unhappy in WWE, Hardy would make his AEW debut on the March 9th episode of AEW Dynamite. Hardy would come to the aid of his brother and longtime partner.

This week news broke that Hardy had been arrested for multiple charges including a DUI. While it’s easy to beat a man while he’s down, how about we uplift and try to encourage him to get the help he needs.

As a longtime wrestling fan, I have the utmost respect for Hardy and wish him the best of luck in his battle with addiction.


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