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Cook’s Top 5: WWE Stories of 2022

New year new story ideas! Cook drops his WWE expectations for what could be the biggest stories of 2022!

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It’s 2022, and you know what that means! It’s time for us to go over what people will be talking about the rest of the year. Last time, we took a look at the non-WWE topics, mostly because Tony Khan had a wild weekend that needed to be discussed. Today, we look at WWE, right after they had a wild couple of days that need to be discussed.

One thing’s for sure, we won’t be lacking for topics of conversation in 2022.

5. Will NIL lead to anything?

To be honest, I expect NIL to lead to nil in 2022. Gable Steveson has other business to attend to this year, namely winning another NCAA Championship. Barring his winning that title, immediately entering WWE and winning their Championship, which seems highly unlikely, you won’t see a dramatic impact from any of the people signed under this program in 2022.

2023 & 2024, now that might be a different story. If people are patient. Patience is a virtue that wrestling executives & fans are usually short on, so we shall see.

4. Will NXT 2.0 get a chance to develop?

It’s no secret that NXT’s re-tooling met with a lot of criticism from the Internet. Many felt that Triple H’s version of NXT was the perfect wrestling product and should never have been tampered with. What’s done is done, and we’ve certainly seen a different presentation on Tuesday nights over the past couple of months. It had some bumpy moments early, but seems to be hitting its stride now. Bron Breakker has been established as a future top guy. The women’s division has been reset with the likes of Toxic Attraction & Cora Jade getting the most attention. Grayson Waller is rubbing shoulders with the likes of AJ Styles.

So far, WWE’s been trying to make this thing work. The question is if they’ll continue trying, and if the fans that gave up on NXT will give it another look.

3. The new strains of the coronavirus that will pop up and take people out of commission for periods of time

I mean, who are we kidding? This covid thing ain’t going away anytime soon. We can easily predict what will happen throughout 2022 and how it will affect WWE.

-New strain emerges
-People get sick
-Wrestling continues

We will continue to discuss it and say the same things we’ve been saying since March 2020. WWE will ignore it as much as possible, only acknowledging it when somebody important gets sick. Which I’m not even saying is the wrong decision, as most of us watch this wrestling stuff to get away from our real-life problems. Traveling across the country is a little more questionable, but I think that ship’s already sailed. People can either attend the shows or not. It’ll be interesting to see how crowds trend while the pandemic continues, and just how thin the roster gets at certain times of the year.

2. Will somebody dethrone the Tribal Chief? If so, will it be somebody new?

Roman Reigns has been Universal Champion for nearly 500 days. If he doesn’t vacate or lose the championship on Friday’s SmackDown, he’ll break the record for longest reign with that championship. For most of his run, there’s been no real threat of him losing the championship. Some tried to tell you that The Demon King could do it, or Edge, possibly Kevin Owens, or any of these other alleged challengers could do it, but if we’re being honest (and we are because this is a Steve Cook column), nobody has posed much of a threat to Roman’s reign.

Well, there is Brock Lesnar. Brock had to settle for winning the WWE Championship on Day 1 instead of the Universal Championship, but he still seems to be coming for the Big Dog. Could we see the titles unified? Will Roman reign all year? Or will somebody actually break through to Roman’s level and knock him off his perch?

1. Who will get released this week?

William Regal WWE NXT Sunshine

By this point, I think we all know that WWE is going to be releasing people on a fairly regular basis. Heck, they released a batch of people while I was in the process of writing this. Fans are going to act shocked and outraged, but there’s really no reason for shock and the outraged aren’t going to do anything about it except be outraged again when more people get canned.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not great when people lose jobs. You especially feel for somebody like Allison Danger, who got 90 days of employment after moving across the country to work her dream job. Most wrestlers of my age group and younger see WWE as the dream. It’s what they grew up on. It’s tough for them to realize that the company they loved most of their lives doesn’t necessarily love them back. They need to realize what WWE is & who they are.

Hey, I’m not going to fault anybody for wanting to work for WWE. Plenty of people do well there. Folks just need to come into the whole thing with eyes wide open. Employment for a lengthy amount of time isn’t a guarantee. More & more people will find this out in 2022.


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News

News From Cook’s Corner 5.16.22: Headbutting Fools Since 2022

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Hi, hello & welcome to News From Cook’s Corner! Steve Cook here with you for the first one of these in quite some time. There’s been a lot going on, most of which I don’t plan on discussing live & in public if you will. Some stuff to deal with, and enough of it is dealt with that I can get back to doing my thing. Still some more stuff to deal with, but writing helps.

Another thing that helps? There’s finally enough wrestling news going on for me to write up one of these things. Let’s get to it.

Roman Going Part-Time?

Last weekend, Roman Reigns made some comments after a WWE live event in Trenton, NJ that made ears perk up. After his match, he talked about how it might be his last time appearing in Trenton, and that he was going through a new phase in life. Then after his match teaming with the Usos at WrestleMania Backlash, Reigns hinted that it might be the last time they all team together. Naturally, this led to everybody jumping to all sorts of conclusions. Some thought he was retiring. Others thought it was a new Paul Heyman-inspired worked shoot storyline, and nothing would really change.

As usual, the truth ended up somewhere in the middle. Reigns & WWE came to a new agreement, one that involves Reigns working far fewer dates than he has been. If you’ve been watching this stuff as long as I have, you know this was the most likely scenario. It’s the natural progression of top WWE Superstars. Once they reach a certain height of stardom, they’re not going to be working as often. Reigns has made no secret of his desire to get into acting, and Nick Khan has made no secret of WWE’s desire to help Reigns in that endeavor. WWE has done right by Reigns, and Reigns has had his part in helping the company achieve record-setting profits.

Reigns will still be part of WWE’s major events. He was pulled from advertising for many house shows, but is still advertised for Money in the Bank, SummerSlam & Clash at the Castle in Wales. He was on the most recent episode of SmackDown as well, though I think we can assume he won’t be wrestling on that show anytime soon. Reigns’ last match on SmackDown was back on December 3, 2021, when he put an unconscious Sami Zayn in a choke to win in a matter of seconds. He can do his lengthy entrance, talk after Paul Heyman and call it a night. Eventually, we won’t get that quite as often.

WWE will be looking to elevate somebody into Roman’s spot sooner rather than later. As things stand, there isn’t really anybody on the roster on Roman Reigns’ level. I’m more positive than most probably are on the idea of WWE elevating somebody to Reigns’ level…if Reigns’ career has proven anything, it’s that Vince McMahon won’t give up on a guy if he 100% believes in him. How many times could Reigns have been sent down the card due to subpar fan reaction? Vince never did, he was going to make the darn thing work.

There’s also the pesky little thing of Roman being the WWE Universal Champion. He could drop it at one of those summer stadium shows, or he could hold onto it until he breaks Bruno Sammartino’s record of 2,803 days. We know they’re not going to elevate the Intercontinental & United States Championships, those things are never on Peacock and barely ever on television. I have to go along with Greg DeMarco’s idea of creating Raw & SmackDown men’s championships. The men would match the women then, and WWE could also sell new title belts. Reigns could still have the historical championship to defend once in awhile.

MJF: The story you’ll get tired of long before 2024

I don’t know if you’ve heard this or not, but MJF’s contract with AEW expires in 2024. Fightful was sure to let us know this week that he’s unhappy with his current status. I’m sure they believe their sources and are happy with themselves, but I have to wonder based off of one simple thing:

MJF is always working.

That’s the thing old heads like me love about him. This kid is always working that gimmick. He’s always the biggest asshole on the planet, except on Long Island, where he’s still an asshole but accepted by his peers. I like that about him, but at the same time I realize that nothing he puts out there is legitimate. People wonder why wrestling news sources always get things wrong, and the reason is much simpler than they think: Wrestlers lie. Especially wrestlers as good at their job as MJF.

So I hate to be the bearer of bad news to my fellow IWC folks that think they have super insider knowledge, but the man is always working an angle. As long as they’re ok with being used by him, it’ll be ok.

Maybe MJF jumps to WWE in 2024. I have a tough time believing they’ll push somebody of his body type as a top guy, but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe WWE pushes MJF into acting and everybody involved lives happily ever after. Can’t rule that out. Until then, if I was MJF’s current employer and had him locked in until 2024 and he was putting stuff out there about how he wanted to jump ship, I would have Wardlow powerbomb him into the sun. Just squash the shit out of him until he got the message. If he didn’t get the message? That would be fine. I’d just feed him to everybody I could until his contract expired.

I doubt Tony Khan would be that petty. Then again, some of his social media activity indicates the opposite. Who knows?

Ric Flair Returning To The Ring?

On one hand, the idea of 73 year old Ric Flair returning to the ring seems completely insane. We’re talking about somebody that barely avoided death a few years back, who hasn’t wrestled since 2011, and that promoters started avoiding for some time after the Dark Side of the Ring episode about the Plane Ride From Hell aired.

On the other hand, it’s not like Ric Flair hasn’t gone against the grain before. He’s also stated that he never wanted to retire from wrestling, and would be happy if he died in the ring. So when you think about it, it’s not surprising at all that Flair would be pursuing a return to the ring. The question is who would go along with such a thing, and if everything could fall in line for it to happen. Dave Meltzer says the current plan is for Flair to team with FTR against the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express & “someone”. Not sure who would be hosting such a thing, though the Big Time Wrestling promotion that just booked Mick Foley to manage FTR for a match comes to mind. I could also see GCW being all over something like this.

It’s not like septuagenarians have never wrestled before. Most of your all-time legends were still kicking around years after people told them not to wrestle. Lou Thesz had his last match at the age of 74. Buddy Rogers almost had a match with Buddy Landell at 71 before the promotion that booked it closed. Jerry Lawler is 72 and still doing his thing on the indies. Terry Funk’s most recent match was at 73. Jimmy Valiant was 77 for his retirement match. Heck, Canek is on the verge of 70 and just had a passable match with Psycho Clown at TripleMania. That being said, most of them didn’t have Flair’s medical history. Lawler had a heart attack, but he kicked out of it and also had the good fortune to not have addiction issues.

I will say that it would be a good thing for Flair if he focused his energy on getting into ringshape instead of indulging some of his demons. I see the clips of him working out with Jay Lethal and think that’s a better usage of his time than what he’d be doing otherwise. So I’m all for Ric Flair training for a comeback. It’s his life, after all. Who are we to tell him what to do?

Hot Take: Fans Should Not Headbutt Wrestlers

We’ve all heard the stories about rambunctious crowds in the good ol’ days. Back when men were men, women were women & the sheep were scared, evil pro wrestlers used to be able to rile fans up to the point where they would need to fight their way backstage. We haven’t seen it as much since the territory days ended, but there’s still occasions where fans’ suspension of disbelief leads to them going after the wrestlers.

One of them happened this past weekend in Augusta, Georgia. Wrestler Joe Black pulled the ultimate heel move: knocking somebody’s hat off. The cad! The fan, whose punk card had been pulled in front of God & everybody, did what all of us would have done in that instance.

That’s right, he delivered a headbutt!

I must say, this is the first time I’ve seen a fan headbutt a wrestler. Back in the old days they had knives with them. It’s usually tougher to get weapons into a wrestling venue these days, so ol’ boy had to go a different route. Also, I’m pretty sure wrestlers didn’t knock hats off of fans’ heads back in the day, as they were trying to avoid getting knived.

Should Joe Black have knocked the hat off of Scooter’s head? Probably not. I would prefer that wrestlers not touch fans except for a high five, and even that’s questionable these days. On the other hand…dude, you’re a fan. It’s fun to get wrapped up in this stuff, but there’s never a reason you should be looking to throw hands with any wrestler.

If you’re going to attend a wrestling show soon, don’t be this guy. A simple request from your favorite from back in the day.

Thanks for reading! I won’t make any promises about when the next one of these things will be, but it should be sooner than three months. Until then, keep your stick on the ice.


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Cook’s WrestleMania Backlash 2022 Gambling Picks

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Hey kids! I know it’s been a minute since I’ve graced the pages of The Chairshot. What can I say, it’s been a busy stretch. Work is picking up, sports are picking up, pretty much everything is picking up!

Well, not everything, if the WrestleMania Backlash card tells me anything. Not that it’s new for the Backlash shows to have a large number of WrestleMania re-matches, but it doesn’t exactly make one more excited to talk about the same things one talked about for weeks heading into WrestleMania. On the bright side, one can also be busy for weeks, drop right in to do some Backlash coverage, and feel like they haven’t missed anything. Life is too short to be bothered.

This column is being written on Thursday night/Friday morning, which means three things you need to keep in mind. One: WWE typically adds matches to their Premium Live Events in the hours leading up to the show. Two: Our odds provided by BetOnline are certainly subject to change. Three: As always, all of these picks are for entertainment purposes.

As the card stands, we’ve got four WrestleMania re-matches and two new ones. We’ll lead and close with the new ones, while covering the old ones in the middle. Makes sense to me, which is what counts since I’m the one driving the bus here.

Madcap Moss (-200) vs. Happy Corbin (+135)

You had to know this friendship wouldn’t last for ever. For one thing, it was a friendship formed on a wrestling show, and I’m pretty sure none of those ever last. For another thing, Happy was bound to get jealous of Madcap’s recent success in the ring, his good humor, his connection with the fans, and his six-pack. These are not things that Happy Corbin is familiar with, so he & Madcap Moss were never going to be able to remain on the same page too long.

If I know one thing about Happy Corbin feuds, it’s that they all last forever and a day. Moss seems to have some potential and could be headed to big things, but a Happy Corbin win via chicanery forcing the feud to continue seems like a good bet to me.

Edge (-145) vs. AJ Styles (+100)

Edge’s Triple H/Undertaker mishmash thing he has going on is kind of weird, but does serve the purpose of making him a heel. Which is great since he’s always been more interesting in that role. The idea seems to be building Damian Priest as his protege, but unfortunately for Edge, Priest is banned from ringside here due to Style defeating him on Raw.

A temporary setback though. Edge will likely win here, the question is who will help him win. Will Priest come in under a disguise? Will AJ’s clubhouse buddy Finn Balor do the dirty deed? That guy’s always seemed a bit shady. Or, will it be someone else entirely? I’m not sure of much, but I am sure that we haven’t seen the full roster of Edge’s associates.

Cody Rhodes (-300) vs. Seth Rollins (+200)

Cody is still generating goodwill during his time in WWE, which is a good thing for us all. Would we rather see a wrestler popular and doing good things in one company, or unpopular and doing meh things in the other? Seems like an easy choice to me, and Cody definitely seems on his way to being part of WWE’s main event scene for a long time to come. Granted, WWE fans could turn on the guy just like AEW fans did, but let’s worry about that when it happens.

If anybody knows about the fans turning on them, it would be Seth Rollins. The number of suits Rollins owns doesn’t equal the number of times fans have changed their minds on his abilities or lack thereof. He’s at his best as a smarmy prick, and has done his best to get under Cody’s skin of late. Will it be enough for Rollins to get a win at WrestleMania Backlash? Nah, I think they save Cody Rhodes‘s first defeat for another time.

Omos (-300) vs. Bobby Lashley (+200)

MVP decided to pull the ol’ Mr. Fuji move after WrestleMania. Even though Lashley got the win at that show, MVP believes that Omos has more upside. Not sure how smart a move that is, as I remember Fuji’s decision to back the younger Powers of Pain over the established Demolition and how poorly that went for him. Omos is a tall boy, but he hasn’t proven to have the versatility in the ring that Lashley has.

Maybe it’s Omos’ time to get the win, but if you’re giving me Bobby Lashley as an underdog I’m taking that all day.

SmackDown Women’s Championship I Quit Match
Ronda Rousey (-700) vs. Charlotte Flair (+360)

Since the start of her mixed martial-arts career, Ronda Rousey has not lost a match via submission. She’s been knocked out, but has never quit. It’s easy to see why she’s such a huge favorite against Charlotte, who has given up in multiple championship matches. Saying “I Quit” wouldn’t be a new thing for Charlotte, while one doubts the words have ever crossed Ronda’s lips.

That said, there’s always a first time for everything. One could make the argument that if anybody is capable of making Ronda Rousey submit, it would be Charlotte via her figure-eight hold. I won’t be making that argument, but one could make it if they wanted to.

Drew McIntyre & RK-Bro (-275) vs. Roman Reigns & The Usos (+185)

WrestleMania saw Roman Reigns combine the WWE & Universal Championships by defeating Brock Lesnar. Naturally, the next goal for the Bloodline would be for the Usos to combine the Raw & SmackDown Tag Team Championships. They seemed on course to do that until Roman interrupted the contract signing & helped beat Randy Orton & Riddle up. One can only assume that Reigns has no faith in his cousins to defeat RK-Bro, which might be a fair opinion for him to have.

Drew McIntyre came to the save of RK-Bro and Riddle convinced Drew & Randy to bury the hatchet, so we’re getting a trios match in Providence. It’s a means of stretching the issue out to at least the next Premium Live Event, probably longer. Should be a solid match, all the combatants are reasonably over, and I’m not a fan of combining all the titles anyway. No complaints here.

Drew & RK-Bro winning seems to make sense to keep them strong, but so does the Bloodline winning because they usually win things. I’d count on one of the Usos getting pinned.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy making money off the rasslin!


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