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Steve Cook’s Fave Five: June 2021

The News may have been skipped, but Cook never skips leg day! Or…at least his favorites of the month Top 5! Take a look!

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Hey guys! Just wanna hit you up with a quick programming note before getting to the June Fave Five. You might have noticed a lack of News From Cook’s Corner this week, and that comes down to me getting tired of reading and writing about wrestling news, rumors & gossip. This happens a lot. Eventually, the repetitiveness, the mindless speculation & nonsense of the wrestling news scene gets to me and I need a break. I’ll get back into it eventually, but for right now the best thing for my sanity is to spend less time scouring various wrestling websites to try and piece together stories that may or may not be true. It’s fun sometimes, but it’s not scratching that itch for me right now. Don’t worry, I’ll find something that does.

You know what is fun? Writing about some of my favorite current wrestlers! Sometimes when I’m in that news grind, or when I’m diving into the issues with the presentation of modern wrestling, or when I’m sorting out which company I’m supposed to stan for this week, I lose sight of the fact that there is a lot about pro wrestling that I still like. Tons of folks out there doing their thing and doing it well.

Here are the five currently rocking it the most, at least in my eyes.

5. Serena Deeb

Serena’s return from injury has been a successful one thus far, as she’s established herself as the Woman of 1,000 Holds during matches with Red Velvet, Riho & Kamile. The Riho match was especially good, getting the crowd pumped for the Double or Nothing PPV. In the matches with Velvet & Kamille, Deeb was in her element as a player/coach, helping inexperienced competitors through matches that made them look better than they did going in. AEW’s women’s division has benefitted from her arrival, and there are plenty of wrestlers there that can learn from a match with her.

Unfortunately for the NWA, I’m not sure taking their championship off of Deeb was the best idea. I can only assume they meant to take the men’s title off of Nick Aldis and the wires got crossed somehow.

4. Elektra Lopez

I’m happy that Franky Monet has made her way to NXT and gets to work in the same company with her husband again. Good person, talented worker, deserves all the best. However, I must admit that during her World Premiere Encore on Tuesday night, my attention was more taken by her opponent. It was something to hear the entire NXT viewing audience exclaim “WHO IS THAT?” right at the same moment, but that’s exactly what happened. Who was this captivating beauty billed from Puerto Rico taking our viewing devices by storm?

Every single wrestling website immediately jumped on this story, and we found out that Electra previously went under the name of Karissa Rivera while working the Northeast indies. Electra is a second-generation wrestler, being the daughter of late 70s-early 80s WWF enhancement talent Steve King.

She had a brief ROH run in the middle of 2019 where she scored an upset win over Sumie Sakai that unfortunately didn’t lead to much of anything. Also made some previous WWE appearances, including an NXT match with Lacey Evans in 2018 before the show made the USA Network. She also appeared on SmackDown in April 2019 as one-half of the Brooklyn Belles, teaming with Kris Statlander before she became an alien and made some friends. Oh, and she was also Bobby Lashley’s ex-wife in the Lana/Lashley wedding debacle. So let’s just say that she’s been through some stuff, and it’s very fortunate that nobody remembers any of it now! WWE was impressed with her work though, and brought her in full-time back in February.

Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of Electra on NXT television very soon so she can be a regular in this column!

3. Tony Deppen

Deppen has had a pretty impressive string of matches on ROH television lately. It started with an upset victory over Tracy Williams for the World Television Championship, giving his VLNCE UNLTD group its first ROH title. Not too many people would have pegged Deppen to be the first amongst that foursome to get a strap, considering the other members are Brody King, Homicide & Chris Dickinson. Deppen has commented that while people think he’s the least violent of the group, he’s actually the least stable. Littlest dog in the fight, biggest heart, he’s got that stuff going for him.

Deppen’s win streak continued with an 8-man tag team match win for VLNCE UNLTD over The Foundation, who consist of Williams & fellow sticks in the mud Jay Lethal, Jonathan Gresham & Rhett Titus. Then he had his first TV title defense against Williams & Dragon Lee…since Williams was the one pinned it’ll be Dragon Lee getting the title shot at the Best in the World PPV. Deppen will be the underdog, but we should probably quit picking against him in these matches.

2. Miro

After a few months of video game playing & Mickey Mouse shirt wearing, Miro has finally become the badass we all hoped he would be when he came to AEW. The switch has flipped, and the Best Man is running over everybody in his path. He decimated Darby Allin to take the TNT Championship, and it’s anybody’s guess who will eventually take the title from him.

It was nice to see Miro having fun early on. He was doing what he wanted to do. But some people are just meant to be asskickers. As fun as video games are, and as over as Rusev Day was, Miro is at his best when beating the living crap out of people. Fortunately, there are plenty of people in AEW that he can beat the living crap out of.

1. Eva Marie

If you’ve been keeping up with my work here at The Chairshot, you knew who would be #1 with a bullet this month. After all, Eva was a large reason why I got back into the whole Internet wrestling writing thing after a lengthy absence, and columns I wrote about her led to a couple of paying gigs at the time. Sadly, the Eva gravy train only led so far, as she left WWE not long after I got back in the game.

So what is it about Eva, you might ask? Given my reputation as a bit of a horndog, I won’t deny the looks factor. There’s a bit more to it though. I’ve always felt bad for wrestlers that get hate from Internet fans for no other reason than simply existing. Fans got mad at Eva Marie because WWE wanted to put her on television before she was ready. That was the fault of WWE decision makers, not Eva. She doesn’t write the shows or decide who warrants being featured on them. The decision makers saw something in her they thought merited inclusion on TV over other talents that had been around longer. The Internet disagreed, and took it out on Eva Marie instead of the people making the decisions. Eva’s not the first person this happened to, she won’t be the last, and folks like me will be annoyed by people that blame wrestlers for the decisions of a billionaire in his seventies & his yes-men.

No matter what Eva Marie did during her first run with the company, it was going to be seen as a failure by a certain segment of the fanbase. I’m not saying she was the best technical wrestler of all time or the greatest interview, but even if she had been…those people wouldn’t have accepted it. They pre-judged Eva Marie before she could really become Eva Marie.

Of course, the Internet reacted to Eva’s return the way you would expect. Trashed it and villified it without giving it a chance. “How dare Eva Marie come back when Mickie James, Billie Kay, Peyton Royce & others are fired”, they say.

Eva. Did. Not. Fire. Them.

But to hear these people tell it, you would have thought she handed all the released wrestlers their papers. So no, I wasn’t surprised when the mass outrage over Piper Niven being introduced as Eva Marie’s protege without a name happened. We know darn well that at least 75% of the people whining about the announcers ignoring Piper’s NXT UK lineage during that match never watched her on NXT UK. WWE wanted to tell a story of Eva bringing in this new girl to fight her battles for her, and the details could either be told later or swept under the rug depending on what worked best.

The Internet bitched & moaned, and Monday’s show seems to indicate they’re getting their way, as Eva & “Doudrop” already lost a match after Eva’s protege walked out on her. Which would have been fine if it wasn’t in their very first tag team match. I guess they’re taking a lesson from recent AEW booking, starting with the blowoff and going backwards from there. I don’t think it’s what Greg had in mind when he talked about booking backwards.

Anyway, I’m happy Eva’s back. Also happy you read this! Join me on the Twitter, let me know who you’re digging, and I’ll be back next month to do this thing again.


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Steve Cook’s Fave Five: November 2021

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The Inspiration The Iconics WWE Impact Wrestling

It’s Thanksgiving week, and you know what that means!

This is the time we give thanks for our favorite professional wrestlers. And other things, I’m sure. Many of you reading this have other things to be thankful for. I don’t know what those are, but I do know which wrestlers I’m thankful for here at this moment. Let’s dive into the Fave Five!

5. Eddie Kingston

As somebody that was into the independent wrestling scene back in the mid-2000s, I’ve been aware of Eddie Kingston’s existence for a long time. I’ve known that the man was a better talker than almost anybody in the wrestling business. I’ve also known that the man was his own worst enemy, much like Buddy Landell was his own worst enemy back in the 1980s & 90s. If Eddie could somehow find the right place and right time, nothing could hold him back.

This seems like Eddie Kingston’s right place & time. He got a spot with AEW, and he kept getting over. His piece with The Player’s Tribune got him even more sympathy than he already had. The feud with CM Punk heading into Full Gear was perfect. It got Punk into the state people wanted him in. The match at Full Gear was great, even if Punk ended up winning. The only issue? The feud isn’t continuing. But that’s AEW. Feuds don’t last long unless they’re on BTE. Punk & King have already moved onto other things, and we can only hope they get back to each other in a year or two.

4. Bryan Danielson

I know that Bryan’s biggest run came when he was the underdog going against The Authority, and many folks took to him as that underdog. I was one of those guys that followed Bryan during his indy career, and his best run came when he was a total dickhead heel in Ring of Honor. Yeah, he was still short or whatever mainstream fans complained about at the time, but he could out-wrestle anybody put in the ring with him, and he was supremely confident about that fact. Not over-confident, supremely confident. He’d tell the referees the rules, because he was the Best in the World.

AEW fans are now getting that side of Bryan Danielson, and fortunately he has the right opponent to do it against. Hangman Adam Page has been accepted as a folk hero by hardcore AEW fans. They won’t turn against the Hangman for anybody, even when it’s really tempting since Bryan Danielson is a pretty amazing professional wrestler. One of the best I’ve seen! He’s getting to be a total dickhead again while he runs through Page’s Dark Order friends, and it’s amazing.

He’s not lying either. He wrestled the day after he won the WWE Championship at WrestleMania! Bryan Danielson has never lied. Maybe you don’t like what he says, but he’s always been honest. And the second he mentioned WrestleMania, those hardcore AEW fans were ready to jump on him. Bryan didn’t bury WWE like other folks that previously worked for them did. He had his reasons, and this was one of them.

3. The IInspiration

I was asked to be part of 411’s Fact or Fiction this week, since this week was decided to be the blowoff for a tournament from way too long ago where Len Archibald & myself made it to the finals. Bad news for me, as Len is much better with the written word than I am. 411 readers will sacrifice me at the temple of the Tribal Chief that is Len Archibald. I can’t blame them. One of the questions of this particular Fact or Fiction column asks us if underutilized people are better off getting released. Two of the most underutilized people in the history of WWE were Cassie Lee & Jessie McKay. WWE never knew what they had with them. Not the slightest idea. The only time they ever put them over was to spite Bayley & Sasha Banks for reasons. They never followed up on that because they didn’t care.

Cassie was supposed to be the breakout single star, except they never followed through with it. Jessie had the personality, and she had the look too but WWE did the best they could to take the look away from her. It was so weird. That’s why I’m so happy they found a place to let them be them. Impact Wrestling is a strange place. Certain people find their place there. The IInspiration seem to fit like a glove.

2. Dalton Castle

The Party Peacock was somebody that original Ring of Honor fans would have rejected in an instant. Some will try to tell me I’m wrong about that, but they in fact are wrong. The very first segment on “The Era of Honor Begins” featured the Christopher Street Connection getting squashed by Da Hit Squad because their sort of flamboyance wasn’t what ROH was going to be all about. It was 2002, a different time. I remember it well, as I graduated from high school. Way too many things have happened since then and I feel way too damn old.

Dalton Castle would not have been a favorite to original ROH fans in 2002. By the time he came around, he was just what the promotion needed. He had a personality the likes of which hadn’t been seen in pro wrestling for quite some time, which was great because the main knock against ROH was that their wrestlers didn’t have personality. Dalton Castle was ROH’s answer to that criticism. Unfortunately, Dalton’s body broke down at the same time he won the company’s World Championship. He fought through a broken back to have a reign worthy of the championship, but nearly killed himself in the process.

Castle wasn’t the same for a long time afterward. Only recently, we started to see shades of the old Dalton Castle. The man was revitalized by the promise of Television. He wanted to make Ring of Honor the best show on TV, even though he was a very busy man. Very busy. We’re lucky to see him when we do. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with him now that Ring of Honor is letting their people go. If he’s back to being the Dalton Castle we remember from a few years ago, the sky’s the limit. Any company would be lucky to have his talent & personality.

1. Cora Jade

I realize that I am in the minority of people around here when it comes to NXT 2.0. I can’t really say it’s a good wrestling show, but I do find it interesting. You have to know a little bit about my rasslin fan background. I ended up in Louisville during the time when Ohio Valley Wrestling was WWE’s developmental territory. While I never got the chance to attend a show at Davis Arena until years afterward, I enjoyed getting to watch the future stars of WWE on television learning their craft before they made it to Raw or SmackDown. Some were really good in the ring. Some were not. But it was all interesting to me.

Here in 2021, I have more interest in seeing the people that WWE thinks is going to be their future than seeing people I saw in Ring of Honor more than ten years ago having great matches just like they did in Ring of Honor more than ten years ago and having no chance of making it any bigger than “NXT TakeOver main eventer”. Which is fine if you’re into that kind of thing. Me…not so much.

I’m looking for the next big thing. Always have been, always will be. So when I take a look at Cora Jade, the youngest person under WWE contract, I see the potential. I see her work against Mandy Rose, who WWE wants to be the next big thing. I see Cora Jade get over, and I see the future, which is Cora Jade. People will try to tell me I’m wrong. They’ll be proven wrong eventually, but since they’re a lot louder, followers will act like the fools were right all along, even though they had the wrong opinions back in the day. That’s America for ya.


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News From Cook’s Corner 11.22.21: Happy Eggsgiving

A few shows, some big news, and some more releases. This week had everything! For better or worse… – and Cook gives you the lowdown!

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Hi, hello & welcome to News From Cook’s Corner! This is the week where we think about all of the things we’re thankful for. So I might actually do a Fave Five this week, considering the annual Thanksgiving column was the inspiration for the gimmick anyway! Gonna be a pretty busy week though, so we’ll see how that goes.

Before you gorge yourself on turkey, here’s the latest going on in the rasslin world…

More WWE Releases!

There’s a pretty good chance that this will become a regular section of the ol’ column. Eighty wrestlers have been released by WWE during 2021, with one (Samoa Joe. Remember him?) being rehired. Let’s put this in perspective for a minute, as looking at the numbers can explain a lot of what’s going on here.

Raw currently has forty-three wrestlers. SmackDown has thirty-six. NXT has forty-one male wrestlers & twenty-one female wrestlers. NXT UK has forty-three wrestlers. Wikipedia lists four wrestlers under 205 Live, six wrestlers as free agents, then twenty-two wrestlers as Performance Center trainees. If I had to guess, Wikipedia doesn’t have a complete list of Performance Center trainees, so we really have no idea how many people are still hiding there. I seem to recall Nick Khan talking about signing a bunch of people when he was doing that media tour around SummerSlam.

The point I’m trying to make is that WWE has a ton of people under contract and really doesn’t have that many spots. Most of those people listed under Raw & SmackDown haven’t done much of anything in quite some time. The NXT & NXT UK rosters are freaking immense, and NXT is where a lot of the recent cuts have come from. There are going to be more people coming in, therefore there will be more cuts. It’s just best to accept this now instead of getting all sad & depressed every time it happens over the next few months or however long we have before Nick Khan engineers a sale. Don’t spin this as me being happy about people getting canned, I’m just saying “it is what it is”.

So who was it this time?

A few of them were connected to the previous releases. John Morrison would be the longest tenured wrestler of this batch, considering his wife (known as Franky Monet on NXT & Taya Valkyrie elsewhere) was part of the last crop of releases this wasn’t as big of a surprise as one may think. Kind of a dick move from WWE since they’d just moved from California to Florida to facilitate her training at the Performance Center. Other people will have to learn from these events. Johnny has been more entertaining during his stints outside of WWE than he has been in WWE, so I think he’ll do just fine.

Remember when B-Fab was released and everybody thought it was kind of random to get rid of one of Hit Row’s members right after they debuted on SmackDown? Now they’re all gone. Isaiah “Swerve” Scott had been a featured act in NXT and was a top star in the indies before signing with WWE. Ashante thee Adnois was fairly new but had potential, and then there’s Top Dolla. This seems to come down to Top Dolla rubbing people the wrong way, including burying colleagues on social media & complaining to management about B-Fab’s dismissal.

It’s easy to understand why Top Dolla might have gotten a big head & thought his opinions mattered. He was featured on the Most Wanted Treasures show before ever appearing on NXT, so he was obviously a favorite of Paul Levesque’s. He also became the featured member of Hit Row upon their arrival on SmackDown, as his 6’5 330 pound frame played better with main roster decision makers than Swerve Scott’s lack of size. Dude moves pretty well for his size too, so there’s some potential there. Apparently he didn’t show enough potential to make up for whatever headaches he was causing, and the other two guys didn’t have enough appeal without him.

It’s tough, because I like it when people cause trouble backstage & stand up for themselves. Gives me more to write about here. However, I can’t recommend such things in today’s WWE. They’re looking for excuses to fire anybody. Oh, and I also wouldn’t recommend talking smack about the competition’s executive vice presidents like Top Dolla did either. Maybe it’ll impress Tony Khan, who knows.

Tegan Nox’s NXT tenure had more ups & downs than anybody else’s, I’d figure. Whenever she was about to get a push, she tore her knee up. They kept her around though, and finally moved her up to the main roster in July. She was placed in a team with Shotzi and they beat the Women’s Tag Team Champions multiple times, but never got a title shot. Then they got split in the draft, and Nox never even made an appearance on Raw. I don’t have any clue what happened other than somebody wasn’t impressed with Nox for some reason. Seemed like a solid talent to me, but I’m just a dork with a column.

Drake Maverick was released back in April 2020, but was kept around to work the NXT Cruiserweight Championship Tournament and ended up getting his job back due to popular appeal. Of course, he didn’t do a damn thing of note before getting released again, but I think we expected that. Got an extra year & a half of paychecks though, so there’s that. Seems like a nice bloke, he’ll land on his feet.

Shane Thorne disappeared from television once Retribution split up. He did a couple of dark matches recently with a Outback Jack-style Aussie gimmick, but nothing came of it. One would expect him to re-form the TMDK tag team with Mikey Nicholls at the earliest possible opportunity.

Jaxson Ryker was the final name of the list, and was another one that hadn’t done anything notable in awhile. He did outlast his fellow Forgotten Sons in the company, but did not outlast his tag team partner after that group split, Elias. Ryker got some heat back in 2020 when he tweeted political views that his boss agreed with, but it turns out that was the most attention he ever got while working for WWE. How bout that.

We’ll be back with more releases soon enough, I’m guessing. Again, we’re not celebrating these things, but we’re not going to act shocked either. As people have told me, it’s the wrestling “business”.

Did anything interesting happen at Survivor Series?

Becky Lynch beat Charlotte Flair by holding the ropes on a roll-up. In fairness, Charlotte tried to do it first. Also in fairness, it was the same referee that Charlotte took issue with and beat up back in April, so she probably should have seen it coming. Who says WWE doesn’t do long-term storytelling? Prior to the show, Fightful reported the match order, which had this as the main event and everything else in the reverse of which it happened. It’s a good thing Fightful got some egg on their face, as this sure wouldn’t have worked as the finish of the event.

Seth Rollins was the sole survivor in the Men’s Survivor Series Elimination Match, because he needed the win. Of note here was Austin Theory having a pretty long run in the match, Kevin Owens walking out on his team like he was Bad News Brown, and Drew McIntyre & Bobby Lashley doing a double countout spot because they didn’t need to lose.

Omos won the Rock 25th Anniversary battle royal, eliminating twelve people in the process. My takeaway from the match was they were trying to make Omos a star. Then I realized the the match was for Pizza Hut pizza, like how kids read books in school so they can win the Book It contest and get a class pizza party, I guess. I’m confused. How does The Rock feel about Pizza Hut? Never mind, one of the few things worse than political conversation is pizza conversation. If we go down this road we have to talk about pineapples and various cities’ styles of pizza, and I just don’t care about all that.

RK-Bro beat the Usos, and I think I’m the only person that doesn’t go completely crazy whenever Randy Orton does an RKO. We know he’s going to do it in a weird spot. It’s been a thing for like a decade now. Maybe I’m just jealous of these people that are able to react like they saw something for the first time evry time. In any event, Randy Orton has now wrestled more WWE PPV matches than anybody in the history of the universe.

Bianca Belair was the sole survivor of the Women’s Survivor Series Elimination Match. I thought the crowd was a little harsh, but it was a pretty sloppy piece of business & the booking was hella questionable. At least Bianca got to win.

Roman Reigns beat Big E to become the Universal Ultra Mega Champion of the Galaxy. Dude needs a few more nicknames so I’m trying to help him out. Big E got to do a big things, but we all knew what was going down here. Seems to hurt the drama factor to me. I may be wrong though, saw a bunch of people online calling it the best thing they ever saw. So what do I know?

The Rock didn’t show up. Apparently I was supposed to expect him to? People sure seemed mad about it.

The big tease for Monday night? Oh, this is one for the books. Vince McMahon got a Cleopatra Egg from The Rock, apparently part of his Netflix movie. Allegedly worth $100 million. Somebody stole it. All the WWE Superstars get to go to Raw tomorrow night so Adam Pearce can question them about it. If this doesn’t equal a record rating, I don’t know what will.

To answer my question of whether or not anything interesting happened at Survivor Series…I’d lean towards no, but it wasn’t an awful show or anything.

Kenny off of TripleMania Regia?

Kenny Omega might have lost his AEW & Impact Championships fairly recently, but he still has the AAA Megachampionship to his name. Omega was scheduled to defend that title against El Hijo del Vikingo at the upcoming TripleMania Regia event in Monterrey, but Dave Meltzer reports that the champion will be pulling out of the event due to upcoming surgeries.

Yep, surgeries. Kenny has a torn labrum, an abdominal hernia, a bad knee, and a septum issue as well. He’s been working through the pain for awhile now, and is expected to be out at least through February. Seriously though, if anybody deserves some time off it’s Kenny Omega. Dude has put the work in, whether you like him or not. It’ll also give him some added time to focus on the AEW video games division.

New Japan & NOAH Working Together

Last week in this column, I wondered why New Japan was holding three different Wrestle Kingdom events, including one in Yokohama on January 8 that didn’t have a fun IWGP Heavyweight Championship match announced for it yet. Turns out that the January 8 show will be a cross-promotional effort also involving Pro Wrestling NOAH. New Japan is reportedly planning on running a number of cross-promotional events in 2021 as part of celebrating the company’s 50th anniversary. DDT, All Japan & Dragon Gate have apparently talked with NJPW about participating.

These reports indicate to me that NJPW isn’t exactly bullish on the idea of borders being opened up anytime soon. It’s good news for Japanese wrestling fans though, and will help New Japan fill some cards. It’ll be fun to see Keiji Mutoh back in a New Japan ring, won’t it?

Well, that’s all we have time for this week. Thanks for reading, and until next time, keep your stick on the ice.


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