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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 1.17.22: Gory Self-Mutilation

AEW tried to catch lightning in a bottle for the second time. Did it work? What other news struck last week?

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Hi, hello & welcome to News From Cook’s Corner! We’ve got a short column for you this week, which most of you were probably expecting when the Cincinnati Bengals actually on a playoff game. Nah, I didn’t party too much, just had an allergic reaction with my eye again. We’ve done this before. This time I’m pretty sure it had something to do with cleaning my bookshelf and rearranging my books. Hadn’t done that in awhile, so there was a ton of duct. Sitting down and looking at a computer screen sucks, so we have to limit it as much as possible.

There’s still a couple things that warrant discussion though, so let’s get to it.

WWE On The Offensive

Looks like this week’s top stories are about WWE trying to do things to undermine wrestling promotions. We start with Major League Wrestling, who has filed a federal anti-trust lawsuit against WWE claiming that WWE has interfered with their ability to make various media rights deals.

Some of the highlights:

-Former WWE executive Susan Levison allegedly warned an executive from VICE that Vince McMahon was “pissed” they were airing MLW programming. MLW claims that WWE had leverage over VICE due to the Dark Side of the Ring series often being focused on WWE subject matter.

-MLW alleges that when WWE found out about their agreement with Tubi, WWE threatened to stop doing business with Fox. The fallout from the Tubi agreement falling through led to a drop in ticket sales & event cancellations & delays.

-As an example of WWE’s anticompetitive behavior, MLW cited AEW being held out of two arenas in the Cincinnati market due to pressure from WWE. Jon Moxley wrote in his book that the Heritage Bank Center on Cincy’s riverfront refused to book AEW due to WWE influence. I don’t know the other, could be the BB&T Arena across the river on the campus of Northern Kentucky University where WWE has held house shows. AEW wound up running the Fifth Third Arena on the campus of the University of Cincinnati, and outdrew the Raw taping held at the HBC just prior.

-Apparently starting in early 2020, WWE started trying to poach MLW wrestlers that were under contract, and aired footage of an MLW wrestler without MLW’s consent. (Somebody would have to fill me in on this one, I haven’t the slightest idea who this would be.) MLW also claims that WWE sought to prevent wrestlers from working with MLW by refusing to hire wrestlers that had worked there, and that one MLW wrestler demanded to be released early from his contract so he could join WWE.

Do I think that at least some of these allegations are true? Having followed pro wrestling for over thirty years and having read up on the history of WWE…you betcha!

I don’t think there’s a question that WWE has resorted to any means necessary to drive potential competitors out of their market. They’ve been doing this since taking most of the territories’ top stars back in the mid-1980s. It’s been a monopoly for nearly two decades for a reason. The main question I have: Will a judge actually care, or will they throw it out of court because it’s silly pro wrestling?

How do you think WWE slips under the radar on things that other media companies & sports leagues actually have to deal with? People have been trained to not take WWE seriously. As much as people like us obsess over the rasslin’ business, people that don’t “get it” are happy to ignore it. Vince McMahon can do any darn thing he wants, and the reaction from folks outside the wrestling bubble will be non-existent. It’s wrestling! To outsiders, the whole damn thing is an outlaw mudshow.

AEW = Gory Self-Mutilation

The Toronto Sun did an article on All Elite Wrestling over the weekend, talking about their status as a competitor to WWE. They asked WWE for comment & got one:

“If you look at the gory self-mutilation that bloodied several women in the December 31 event on TNT, it quickly becomes clear that these are very different businesses. We had an edgier product in the `Attitude’ era and in a 2022 world, we don’t believe that type of dangerous and brutal display is appealing to network partners, sponsors, venues, children, or the general public as a whole.”

A few notes here:

1. I’ve been doing this stuff longer than I care to admit, and I never thought of asking WWE for comment on something. Should I start asking people for comments on topics I’m writing about? I doubt I’d get any answers, but it might be worth a shot.

2. This has been WWE’s strategy when asked about AEW for some time now. We remember Vince McMahon using the phrase “Blood & Guts” to describe the promotion on a conference call. They know that people get squeamish about blood, especially when it comes to blood coming from women. The Fabulous Moolah never busted anybody open on television, and she trained most of the women for years. People aren’t used to seeing it, and they often get uncomfortable with things they aren’t used to seeing.

3. Most people find other people bleeding pretty gross. There’s a reason why deathmatch wrestling is a niche produxct. People that love it really, really love it, but it’s a very small percentage of the marketplace.

4. WWE’s belief is that advertisers & media companies aren’t big on blood, so they make sure to mention AEW’s apparent lust for the red stuff whenever the subject comes up. Their hope is that advertisers will shy away from advertising with AEW, and media companies won’t give AEW big money when their current deal with WarnerMedia is up.

5. Thus far, whenever Tony Khan is criticized on something, he doubles down on it. So there’s a pretty good chance that we’re going to see even more matches with female bleeding. AEW’s female workers seem happy to do it.

6. WWE could be called out as being hypocritical on this front, but there aren’t many people that will hold them accountable.

It’ll be interesting to see how this goes. All I know for sure is that the smack talk between these two promotions and their fans is just beginning. Think it’s tocic now? Wait a couple of years.

Welp, that’s all for this week. Thanks for reading! Join me later in the week for some Divisional Round picks. Until then, keep your stick on the ice.

In Memoriam: Pete was a longtime reader from back in the day. From my dealings with him he was a kind person that knew how to use his head. When you’ve written things on the Internet as long as I have, you learn that’s a rare thing. From what I’ve read from people that knew him in real life, he was the same way off the computer. Sadly he passed away from cancer on Friday night. Pete was always about serving others, as he was a U.S. Air Force veteran & a regular blood donor. He will be missed.


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NXT 2021 Year in Review: NXT UK!!!

With the OG NXT rebranding and losing a lot of credibility, at least NXT UK has been consistent! Brad brings his NXT UK awards!

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Let’s give out some special awards to the very best hour on the entire WWE Network.

Mark Coffey

Honorable Mention Most Improved: Mark Coffey

Most Improved is one of my favorite awards. I love watching wrestlers get better. This year, Mark wasn’t just decaf Joe. He showed his personality. Playful little bugger seems like the kind of guy you’d want to have a pint with. Even got a short run as a singles guy. Mark’s growth was definitely one of the highlights of the best overall year in the history of NXT UK.  

Oliver Carter is just getting started in NXT UK: WWE Exclusive, Aug. 28, 2019 - YouTube

Most Improved Male Wrestler: Oliver Carter

When Carter first showed up, it was obvious why he was in a tag team, eating all the pins. I don’t know who the trainers are in NXT UK, but someone put in overtime with Carter. Every week, he’s hitting new and exciting moves in the ring. He’s showing more fire on the mic. It’s only a matter of time before Ashton Smith gets jealous and turns on him.  

Stevie Turner NXT UK - Diva Dirt

Most improved Female Wrestler: Stevie Turner

Her first few matches made me wonder what anyone saw in her. Now I see it. She’s a real loony character, a female Dean Ambrose. She gets rambling about the Fourth Dimension and I’m not sure even she knows where that boat is sailing to. Add to that a significantly increased move set and Turner has legit championship aspirations. 

Kenny Williams | WWE

Most Underrated: Kenny Williams

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. If Williams was built like Drew Mcintyre, he would be on RawDown yesterday. I appreciate a smaller guy who doesn’t rely entirely on the flippy dip and acrobatics. Williams is a big bully in a small man’s body. The Scum of the Earth is ready to infect 2022.

Sam Gradwell – Online World of Wrestling

Best talker: Sam Thunderstorm Gradwell

Gradwell might be the best promo guy in all of NXT. He’s solid gold on the mic AND Twitter. He tweeted that WALTER versus Dragunov II is “Unruly Baboon versus Deadly Panda.” I still don’t know which is which, but it sounds fabulous. Now get on that, you bunch of yogurts!

WWE Women 🎊🍾 — ⭐ Isla Dawn and Emilia McKenzie ⭐

Best Character: Isla Dawn

I prefer personality over character. I don’t want SNL skit rejects. I want to believe there is no separation between who they are in the ring and outside of it. Isla Dawn is the exception. She goes into a trance. She’s collecting trophies from her opponents and doesn’t even care about wins and losses. I’m inclined to believe she’s not a witch in real life, but you never know.    

Noam Dar is ready for the Finals: NXT UK Exclusives, Sept. 16, 2021 - YouTube

Best Sidekick: Sha Samuels

With just a dry erase board & marker, the East End Bookie adds so much depth to Noam Dar, an already amazing personality. Unlike the terribly awkward pairing of La Familia, I get the feeling Dar and Samuels really are best buds. They seem to bring out the best in each other. I can’t wait for them to go after the tag team titles.       

Hamilton's NXT UK Review 10.14.21 | 411MANIA

Best Announcer: Andy Shepherd

He’s not just the best in NXT UK, he’s the best in NXT. Period. He takes everything Nigel McGuinness throws at him and he throws it right back, but he does it with an understated eloquence not typically found in rasslin. Shepherd earns the highest praise I can give an announcer: he sounds like a fan watching the show, shooting the shit with his buddies.  

 

Blair Davenport challenges Meiko Satomura: NXT UK Exclusive, Dec. 9, 2021 - YouTube

Most Improved Division: The Women’s Division

NXT still has the best women’s division. It’s now a little further east. In the past, it was Kay Lee Ray. That’s it. Not anymore. The addition of Meiko Satomura and Blair Davenport. The growth of Amale, Stevie Turner and Aoife Valkryie. The Nina Samuels Show. The steady veteran presence of Jinny and Isla Dawn. The division is not deep, but every week they continue to grow and put on quality matches. It started as obligatory, because you have to have a women’s division. They have since earned their spot. Much respect to the women of NXT UK. 

 

Up next, saving the best for last: 2021 NXT Matches of the Year


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