The show starts with Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan having Randy Orton sign his contract for SummerSlam. Heath Slater knocks and enters with a giant fruit basket. He tosses an apple at Orton. Slater says he rewatched Smackdown from last week and is wondering about the contract they were going to give him. After the opening intro, Maryse and The Miz are in the ring doing some MizTV. Dean Ambrose interrupts quickly. Dolph Ziggler cuts him off as he starts speaking. Ziggler and Ambrose nearly square off, but Miz gets between them and starts firing shots. The segment is a little awkward. Ambrose tries to school Ziggler on being a champ, even though Ziggler has won the world title three times. Ambrose keeps calling him “kiddo” and acting like Ziggler has never been in a competitive match in his life. Creative had zero ideas for his promo. Just generic spew of mediocrity. Ziggler responds, actually fired up and showing emotion. He ends his rant by clocking Ambrose in the face and saying, “This Sunday, you’ll see that I’m just that damn good.”
Twelve man tag match coming up next. Yes. Six days before a pay-per-view. A twelve man tag match. (((sigh))) The Usos, American Alpha, and The Hype Bros taking on The Vaudevillians, The Ascension, and Breezango. I don’t really care enough to write about this one. No tag title on Smackdown so what is even the point? This is a waste of air, and a big waste of time for American Alpha. There is no point to this match and the outcome matters for absolutely nothing. American Alpha wins. What a terribly boring Smackdown so far.
As if things couldn’t get worse, Naomi comes out under black lights doing some sort of weird Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader routine wearing neon clothes, carrying a backpack and throwing things into the audience. Alright, to be fair to her, it does look kind of cool. But just when I get into that, Eva Marie comes out and makes me hate this segment all over again. Let’s see what sort of shenanigans she has to get out of her match this week. The announcer says she was delayed due to traffic and will not be able to compete. Naomi doesn’t even have a match. They just cut away to Del Rio backstage. What was the point?
After the break, Randy Orton comes out after a brief Curt Hawkins teaser promo. Heath Slater comes out to continue his campaign for a new contract. Orton throws him shoulder first in two corners and then clothes lines him to the mat. He lays into him with a bunch of stomps and then whips him into the corner. No offense from Slater yet. Several strikes by Orton, so many, in fact, the ref calls for the bell. Crowd starts booing. Orton tosses Slater out of the ring. Then over the announce table into the commentary chairs. He drops him stomach first onto the barricade and then rolls him back into the ring. Slater can barely get up. Orton suplexes Slater and then mocks Brock Lesnar’s bouncing shuffle. He suplexes him again and then ‘goes to that place.’ Slater stands up and takes an RKO. Technically, Slater won, so he should get a contract now, right? Right?!
Slater is shown backstage with a doctor and is loopy. Bryan and Shane come up and he confuses them for Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon. The contract they are about to give him gets taken away as Shane is insulted.
The Wyatt Family comes to the ring. Dean Ambrose vs Erick Rowan. Another meaningless segment. There has been nothing of value tonight on Smackdown; certainly not a whole lot leading into what’s taking place on Sunday. Just a bunch of strange booking decisions. Dirty Deeds and Ambrose wins. After the match Bray Wyatt turns his rocking chair around on Rowan. He stares at the sheep mask, disappointed. He places it on the chair and walks out, leaving Rowan in the ring by himself.
Becky Lynch and Carmella take on Natalya and Alexa Bliss after the break. Eva Marie interrupts during the match and Naomi chases her around the ring. Natalya gets distracted and takes a submission tapout from Becky Lynch. Another lackluster match.
The main event is Del Rio vs John Cena, with AJ Styles on commentary. Cena for some reason has red, white, and blue arm bands on for some reason. And has an American flag on his pants, with a matching red, white, blue belt. Attitude Adjustment takes this one home as Cena wins. Decent match, all things considered. Styles runs in after and attacks Cena from behind. A few moments later, Cena hits an AA off the steel steps against Styles into the announce table. Just an absolute awful Smackdown. I keep seeing people on social media saying Smackdown has gotten better and I just don’t see it. Dismal. Sorry for such a heartless article, but I really can’t get excited with WWE’s direction right now. What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below. See you tomorrow for NXT and the Cruiserweight Classic.
Article by Jamie Curtis Baker
News broke earlier today that Aaron Haddad, better known as Damien Sandow of WWE fame and Aron Stevens on the independent scene, signed with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling and will be making his debut tonight. This is incredible news for pro-wrestling fans, especially those who harbor no ill will towards Dixie Carter and her Impact Zone product.
Haddad, who has been wrestling professionally since 2001, was misused by Vince McMahon despite the greatness of the Sandow character and was released from WWE earlier this year. For the past few months he’s been wrestling on the independent circuits and has now found a new home. His signing to TNA is a huge deal for many reasons. First and foremost being he’s a great worker. He can go in the ring, against any opponent, and his mic skills are impeccable. Now that he has a chip on his shoulder thanks to the McMahon’s, Haddad is probably about to go on a masterful run that will be a highlight of his career.
He could have signed anywhere and been instantly well received. But signing with TNA is an indication of good things from the company. They recently signed Ring of Honor monster, Moose. And now Haddad. As we have said before, TNA is getting better, and Haddad is going to up the ante. Whether coming in to be in a tag team (imagine him and The Miracle, Mike Bennett, being arrogant heels and winning the tag titles) or as a singles competitor (imagine him and The Miracle, Mike Bennett, trading verbal barbs and putting on a clinic in the ring) Haddad is going to succeed. It will be interesting to see where he slides into the roster right out of the gate tonight.
Most importantly though, signing both Moose and Haddad so close together has to put a dent in those vicious online rumors that TNA is having financial problems and will be imploding any minute now. Back off, internet trolls; TNA is still in the game. What do you guys think of this epic signing? Who should Haddad set his sights on for his first opponent? And what are the long term effects of TNA adding him to the roster? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Also, be sure to tune in tonight on POPTV for an all new Impact Wrestling. Watch it live to help their ratings. And in the words of the great Damien Sandow, “You’re Welcome!”
Article by Jamie Curtis Baker
Starting this one a few minutes late thanks to XBOX live needing a huge update. Figures. Just ten little days before NXT Takeover: Brooklyn II. Let’s get this show started.
We kick off with a pre-taped segment of Bobby Roode coming out of William Regal’s office. Roode is rubbing his hands together and says, “This is gonna be great.” After the intro video, Regal is in the ring. Time for a contract signing between Bayley and Askua. Bayley comes out in jeans and a flannel, channeling her inner Daniel Bryan. Asuka comes out wearing a black skirt and top, looking like a champion. Bayley says she sees through the Asuka mystique. She signs the contract. Asuka says Bayley doesn’t have what it takes. She respects her, though, and tries to shake her hand. Bayley says she respects her too, but if she doesn’t want to be left laying on the mat she had better sign the contract and get ready for Brooklyn. Asuka signs, Regal signs, and it’s official. Asuka again tries to shake her hand. Bayley shoves past her and goes to leave but comes back and gets right in Asuka’s face. Asuka just smiles and raises the belt, walking out.
The Authors of Pain come out with Paul Ellering. Love their entrance music. That’s how you amp up a monster. Not this foo-foo shit that Nia Jax has. I do dislike their ring gear, though. A little too much like The Shield. Another squash match for their opponents, Tom Risen and Adrien Nails. Over before it starts. Authors of Pain arrive, destroy, and leave. Vince is going to love these two when they get up to the main roster. After the match they go to beat down Risen and Nails (again) and TM61 run out. They are laid to waste and Authors of Pain stand victorious. Couple of monsters. Once they get going with a great tag team opposite them, they are going to put on a fantastic match.
Shinsuke Nakamura interviewed backstage, asked if he is concerned about Samoa Joe. Nakamura says he isn’t hard to find and he will find Joe when he wants to. It’s hard to put fear into the King of Strong style. He’s not worried.
The undefeated Andrade “Cien” Almas comes out. His opponent is Angelo Dawkins. My wife and I had the pleasure of seeing Dawkins at a live event and he is pretty damn awesome. He is good at being a heel and getting the crowd boiling over. Cien takes control early, as Dawkins graciously sells for him. The crowd at Full Sail is a little flat tonight. They really should give more energy to the show. Cien tries to clap and get them fired up, but they just sit and stare. Hammerlock DDT by Cien and he plants Dawkins for the one, two, three. He continues to be undefeated. As Cien celebrates in the ring, a GLORIOUS entrance song hits and Bobby Roode comes out. He calls Ciens victory “minor league.” Roode says Regal gave him a match at Takeover: Brooklyn against Cien. Good segment for Roode, but Cien does little to show any sort of interest. Needed a little bit more oomph. There might have been a slight language barrier, however.
Backstage segment with Austin Aries speaking to Regal. Regal sets up a match with Aries and No Way Jose at Takeover. Billie Kay comes down to the ring for some women’s action. Liv Morgan comes down, looking like a knockoff Carmella. They need to rework her gimmick or she’s going to fade away into obscurity. Fact action to kick this one off and both ladies look solid. Their sells are a little soft though and lack impact. Both need to work on popping better. Crowd sitting and quiet most of the match, again not helping any of the competitors out. Morgan is a little hyper, but there’s skill there. Billie still seems a little unsure of herself. Both will be good with a little polish. Billie Kay lands a big kick to the face of Morgan and covers her for the pinfall. Lukewarm reaction to the finish by this terrible audience.
Backstage segment with Regal talking to Ciampa and Gargano. He says he hopes their match in the Cruiserweight Classic didn’t affect them heading into Takeover as they battle The Revival for the NXT Tag Team Championships. Gargano and Ciampa come down to the ring to take on a couple of jobbers, I think. Two guys I’ve never heard of called Patrick Clark and Tucker Knight. Knight does a great job in the ring. Big dude with lots of speed. Gargano and Ciampa firing on all cylinders. These guys are solid gold in the ring. They double team Tucker Knight for the pinfall. I wish that match had been longer, but they action-packed the little time they were given. Great job to all.
Tonight’s main event is Mojo Rawley facing Samoa Joe. Wow! What a start to this one. Mojo is going crazy attacking Joe. But it’s short lived as outside the ring, Joe stampedes him into the steel steps and chops him to hell. Back in the ring, Mojo has lost all steam and Joe dominates. Mojo can barely get up to his feet, taking several loud kicks to the chest on the mat. Forearm off the second rope as Mojo tries to battle back. He blocks the Coquina Clutch and slams Joe down. Two count as Joe kicks out. Out of no where, Joe spikes Mojo to the mat and drops him down into the Coquina Clutch. Mojo struggles for a moment, but gives in and taps out. The NXT Champion is your winner. Joe stands up and celebrates with his title. Then just for fun, he locks in the Coquina Clutch again on Mojo. Nakamura’s music hits and he struts down to the ring. He gets half way down the ramp before security runs out and keeps them separated. Seven guys hold Joe as Nakamura gets into the ring. He dances around and then literally honks Samoa Joe’s nose! HaHaHa! He comes back in and slaps Joe in the face. Security can barely hold him back as Nakamura dances around in the corner.
Solid show this evening. Some of the competitors tonight need a little bit of work, but that’s the whole point of NXT. The writing is on the wall that the next class has huge potential. The future remains bright for NXT. After a brief intermission to take my dog for a walk, I’ll be back with full Cruiserweight Coverage. Hideo Itami is scheduled to wrestle next week, which is always something to look forward to. What did you think of NXT tonight, and what are your predictions for Takeover: Brooklyn? Let us know in the comments below!
Article by Jamie Curtis Baker
Let’s be fair, the so-called “new era” of the WWE actually got off to a pretty spectacular start. Right out of the gate we saw some surprise drafts, eyebrow-raising NXT call-ups, and we witnessed the World Heavyweight Championship moving over to Smackdown. The highlight of the entire process featured Sasha Banks kicking off Raw last week and having a mixed tag match with Enzo Amore. Wrestling fans were abuzz. Excitement began to build and some of us genuinely thought we were witnessing something fresh. We got wrestler stats, post-match interviews, and cool new camera angles. And then, for no apparent reason, things stopped being fun and we went back to the status quo of business as usual. WWE stopped taking risks and within just a few short weeks, Raw and Smackdown are back to the same stale product we’ve come to expect. So what the hell happened? Let’s discuss some of the glaring problems still plaguing WWE after the brand split.
Team Red vs Team Blue
We hear people complaining all the time about “protecting the business.” Now, I realize it’s 2016 and the idea of kayfabe is laughable to anyone over the age of twelve, however it firmly applies to my point here. When they did the brand split draft, rumor had it that only a few top tier athletes knew where they were going. The rest found out live just like we did. That’s why Alberto Del Rio’s interview after finding out he was going to Smackdown was so awkward. He was pissed. The roster was angry with WWE. But instead of capitalizing on this, WWE had each brand’s roster go into full support mode for their respective brand. Every guy and gal started wearing a blue or a red t-shirt and the phrases “Team Red” and “Team Blue” began being used. The problem with this is it’s forced and comes across as fake. It would be more logical to have people outspoken against their brand, maybe even to the point of insulting their brand and insisting they be “traded” to the other. Furthermore, if a person is supposed to be a heel, they wouldn’t support a cause like that. Twenty years ago, no heel would be caught dead wearing a bright red Team Raw t-shirt, as Lana and Rusev posted on Twitter. It’s absurd and is definitely the one time I agree with the rubes about exposing the business. Bad guys should be bad guys. Period. If someone like Del Rio has a problem with Smackdown, why in the hell would he be on TV wearing a Smackdown shirt? It makes absolutely zero sense. Guys like Rusev care about themselves and shouldn’t have to pimp out Monday Night Raw merchandise. Even if Lana does look smoking hot in it.
More Like A Brand Extension
This wasn’t really a brand split in a pure sense of the word. As it was explained, Smackdown and Raw would go their separate ways, competing with one another but not allowing the two rosters to interact. This lasted a little more than a week. Then we had Smackdown star, Randy Orton, come out on Raw to RKO Brock Lesnar. Then the following night, Lesnar went to Smackdown and hit Orton with an F5. We could have just let this go, but instead, this week Mick Foley invited Daniel Bryan to come to Raw and explain himself. Already we are creating an atmosphere where there is no distinction between the two. WWE went for careful comfort-ability over trying to shake things up. This was supposed to be a split, not an extension and so far it hasn’t delivered on that.
Poor Decision Making From The Start
Let’s be frank, putting David Otunga and Byron Saxton on commentary was a terrible idea. Neither are good or even taken seriously by their co-workers. Corey Graves was a nice addition to Raw, but moving JBL to Smackdown seems an odd choice when paired against Mauro Ranallo. Over the past few weeks, WWE has relied heavily on their bread and butter tag team matches, pairing together a bunch of superstars to try and cover up the fact they have mediocre programming. The new Smackdown and Raw logos lack pizzazz. And much like they did when initially rolling out with the WWE Network, they rushed something that could have been done a lot better. If they had waited to do the brand split until after the Cruiserweight Classic wrapped up and we had established the Cruiserweight division on Raw, the roster would be in better shape, we’d have more new and fresher faces, and we’d actually have some titles on Raw. As it is, we are all just left wondering when this thing is actually going to start being good. Speaking of the rosters…
Lack of Man Power
Prior to the brand split, every old school wrestler chimed in with WWE not having a deep enough roster to fill two distinct brands. And boy were they right. Raw was already 60 minutes too long, even before the split. That’s why we have to suffer through so many long-winded in-ring promos. Currently, Monday Night Raw has 34 active male wrestlers. That sounds like a lot to put into a three hour show, until you take away one for Brock Lesnar being part-time; then take away another thirteen for tag teams. (New Day, Enzo and Cass, The Club, Golden Truth, Dudley’s, The Shining Stars) Then taking out Mark Henry, Bo Dallas, Jinder Mahal, Darren Young, Curtis Axel, Big Show, and Braun Strowman; all of which nobody really wants to see a lot of on TV. And none of which can carry the brand in any case. Having subtracted all those, you are left with thirteen singles competitors. Even that sounds like a decent amount, until you consider there’s only one singles title on the brand! So we subtract two for Rusev and Roman Reigns who are fighting for that title at SummerSlam. And for the sake of kayfabe, we have to take out Cesaro who faced Rusev this week and was suddenly interested in the title. That’s three down, leaving us ten. Now remove Seth Rollins and Finn Balor who are competing for something called the WWE Universal Championship, which we can only hope is covered in glittery gold and rainbows. Now we are down to eight guys left: Chris Jericho, Titus O’Neal, Jack Swagger, Kevin Owens, Neville, Sami Zayn, Sheamus, and Sin Cara. Jericho and Owens are tagging against Enzo and Cass at SummerSlam so for all intents and purposes they are a tag team for this month, leaving us six. How on earth (this one or any alternate universe earth) is O’Neal, Swagger, Zayn, Sheamus, and Sin Cara supposed to fill the gaps left for singles action? The answer is they can’t. Too many guys crammed into too few programs, with way too many tag teams is a recipe for disaster as we are witnessing now.
This doesn’t even take into account the females division, which for Raw only has seven. The main talents here are Sasha Banks and Charlotte. But it’s already been reported Charlotte is taking time off after SummerSlam. So Sasha will be left trying to make decent matches with Nia Jax, Alicia Fox, Dana Brooke (who could actually be good, if she got more experience), and Summer Rae. Paige lost her mind, so she’s out of the picture. We all love Sasha, but this women’s division is in real trouble, and if Nikki Bella is coming back we are going to go back five steps after moving one step forward.
Switching over to Smackdown we only have 26 wrestlers, more than half of which are in tag teams! (The Ascension, American Alpha, The Vaudevillians, The Hype Bros, Breezango, The Uso’s, The Wyatt Family, excluding Luke Harper) Smackdown has a huge tag division and no tag title. If you remove Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, The Miz, and Apollo Crews, all of which are involved in titles at SummerSlam, we are left with eight guys; consisting of Alberto Del Rio, Baron Corbin, John Cena, AJ Styles, Kalisto, Kane, Randy Orton, and Rhyno. Cena and Styles are doing their tired routine again at SummerSlam and Orton will be facing Lesnar, leaving us with five guys. No wonder Del Rio was pissed. The females division is a little more diverse than Raw with Carmella, Alexa Bliss, Becky Lynch, and Natalya, but without a title, what’s their real motivation? The overall point is, unless you are in a big title match, you are shit out of luck being on the WWE personnel. They don’t have the Creative juice to utilize what they have, and the remaining talent isn’t necessarily skilled enough to plug the holes in the dam.
NXT is not a talent factory, so WWE can’t rely on them to churn out enough main roster talent while still maintaining their allure for hardcore fans. Stripping NXT will only diminish it’s worth and it is easily one of the selling points of the WWE Network. Signing indie wrestlers would help, but that isn’t going to happen short term, especially with the fiscal year ending soon. Creatively, they are taking a few risks, but overall the grand scheme is for them to just keep doing what they think is working. Fans are quickly losing steam and tuning out. WWE had us for a moment, but if they don’t sort things out post-haste, they will continue being chastised and booed as they slide further back into the same old crap.
Article by Jamie Curtis Baker
As Mrs Baker reported last night, Raw did not start the week off right. Let’s see if Smackdown can do any better. The show kicks off with Randy Orton walking into the arena. He is interviewed but soon interrupted by Alberto Del Rio whom he’ll be facing later tonight. Orton doesn’t nail his words and it is not a great opener.
Bray Wyatt comes down to the ring with Erick Rowan, still being billed as The Wyatt Family so we’re assuming that once Luke Harper returns they will get back to their origins. Wyatt says he didn’t lose to Dolph Ziggler last week, but was a victim. That Ziggler got desperate and was lucky in his victory. Bray calls himself a god, even though his pay-per-view record tends to disagree, but whatever. Bray calls Smackdown his show now. See, this is the problem with having Wyatt eat a bunch of defeats. His words sound hollow and don’t have the same menacing tone as they once did back when he was psyching-out John Cena. Luckily, we don’t have to listen long as World Heavyweight Champion, Dean Ambrose, interrupts. Ambrose calls Bray a baby. He says Smackdown belongs to the champion. Bray laughs and invites Ambrose into the ring. Rowan beckons him. Dolph Ziggler’s music hits. Ziggler heads straight into the ring and attacks Rowan. Ambrose joins him but Bray is too much and both men go down. Gee, I wonder if Daniel “Teddy Long” Bryan is going to make this one a tag match for later tonight? Dolph tries to kick Bray, but misses and hits Ambrose instead. Bray hits Ziggler with a Sister Abigail. Commercial
After the break, Ziggler and Ambrose are fighting backstage. Sure enough, Bryan and Shane walk up and tell them they better learn to get along because they are facing Rowan and Wyatt later. Shocker. New Era, Same Old Smackdown. American Alpha come to the ring to face some jobber tag team. And this is the problem with a brand split. There just isn’t enough depth in the roster to have good matches. Nia Jax, Braun Strowman, and American Alpha are all squashing jobbers. The Vaudevillians, The Ascension, and The Hype Bros come to the ring, putting a glaring spotlight on the huge mistake with drafting American Alpha to Smackdown. What a waste. Gable and Jordan deserve so much more than this. Match is over in less than a minute. Alpha wins, naturally. After the match, the other three tag teams jump in and everybody starts fighting. Gable and Jordan clear the ring. American Alpha had to go to Smackdown just so R-Truth and Goldust could chase Pokemons on Monday Night Raw? They have to debut a new tag team soon on Smackdown otherwise American Alpha is going to be lost down the card with these mediocre teams surrounding them. With all do respect to The Vaudevillians.
After another commercial break there is literally a two minute segment of Maryse and The Miz nearly making out in front of Renee Young on the Talking Smack set. Becky Lynch comes out, which is exciting. But then Eva Marie comes out, utterly killing the segment. I am fast-forwarding through this match. Sorry, Becky. But I refuse to watch Eva Marie tarnish the business. There is no match though because Eva Marie has a “wardrobe malfunction.” Becky jumps on the mic and cuts a good promo. She wants to fight and challenges anyone in the back to come down. Alexa Bliss obliges. Yet another commercial break.
The match gets underway, but then Eva Marie interrupts with another entrance. My wife literally just said, “Let’s never go to Smackdown until [Eva Marie] is gone.” Alexa Bliss hits Twisted Bliss for the pinfall off the Eva Marie distraction. Happy Birthday to Alexa Bliss. Happy Suicide Day to the rest of us.
Randy Orton comes down, followed by his opponent Alberto Del Rio. Orton runs the match for the first couple of minutes, whip-lashing Del Rio into the corners, clothes-lining him to the mat, and slamming his throat into the bottom rope. Just when this one gets going, we get hit with another commercial break. Del Rio recovers after the break, throwing Orton shoulder-first into the turnbuckles. Outside the ring, he works on Orton’s left arm, banging it against the steel steps. Del Rio with a cross arm-breaker hanging off the ropes, ref breaks it up at four. Superplex by Orton, but he lands on his left arm and both men are down. Orton tries a DDT off the ropes, but Del Rio blocks it. Del Rio tries a cross arm-breaker, but Orton reverses it, tries an RKO, but it’s blocked and then he hits a draping DDT off the ropes. Del Rio rolls out of the ring as the crowd boos him. Orton, incensed, runs out and takes Del Rio down. He then rips apart the announce table. Del Rio clobbers him with a steel chair and the ref calls for the bell. Del Rio hits Orton in the arm with the chair and then throws him shoulder first into the ringpost. Del Rio rolls Orton into the ring and brings a chair along with him. He sets up to hit him but Orton lands an RKO out of nowhere. It took almost an hour but we finally had a good segment/match. I look forward to seeing Orton get back into form over the next few weeks as he heads into SummerSlam. And also to watch him get his tan back. Those pale legs are hideous.
Backstage, Heath Slater confronts Rhyno. Slater asks Rhyno to help him out in getting a contract. Rhyno declines and we go into commercial. After, both come down to the ring and Slater looks really strong to start things off. He goes for some early covers, to no avail. Slater tries for a dirty pin but the ref sees it. Rhyno hits gore for the three count. Slater still doesn’t have a job. I really hope this leads to a huge SummerSlam moment for Slater. He really is a talented guy. WWE would be foolish to let him go. After the break, Slater is backstage yelling at Bryan and Shane. Slater storms off and Shane puts away the contract he was about to offer him. Carmella comes out, moonwalking. As she works the mic, Natalya runs up behind her. Carmella is ready for her this time and turns to confront her. They fight into the ring. The ref breaks them up, rings the bell, and they go after each other again. Natalya quickly takes control and mocks the crowd. Carmella puts Natalya in a submission and she taps! Wow. That was a surprise. Carmella got a main roster win! Nice!
Main event time. Ambrose and Ziggler vs Wyatt and Rowan. Ambrose and Bray start the match. Ambrose drops Bray and isolates him in his corner. Ziggler tags himself in. Wyatt plants Ziggler and Rowan tags in. Clothesline on the apron and we go to commercial. Sloppy back and forth action after the break, leading to Ziggler and Rowan squaring off. Neckbreaker from Ziggler, then he jumps across the ring and knocks Bray off the apron. Elbow drop and a cover, but Rowan kicks out at two. DDT, another cover, but kick out again at two. Monster kick by Rowan and he nearly gets the pinfall win. Zig Zag by Ziggler but Bray breaks up the cover. Ambrose comes in and tosses Bray out. He dives out after him. Super kick by Ziggler on Rowan, pinfall, that’s the ballgame. Ambrose hits Dirty Deeds on Ziggler and walks out holding his title up. Predictable go home match and some more mediocre booking by Vince and company.
Pretty much a weak performance all across the board for WWE tonight. Smackdown Live started off pretty fun the first couple weeks, but it didn’t take long to turn right back into a barely digestible pile of shit. WWE is supposed to be the benchmark, the big dog, the powerhouse–but if this is the best they can do, why aren’t more people watching TNA on Thursdays? What did you think of this clumsy Smackdown episode? Let us know in the comments below. For my money, neither Raw or Smackdown won this week’s war. See you tomorrow for NXT and the CWC.
Article by Jamie Curtis Baker
In an attempt to increase the amount of content we bring you (and not to boost our SEO rating, I swear) we are going to start doing wrap-ups every Saturday afternoon giving brief blurbs about what took place within each wrestling promotion during the week and linking back to the full articles themselves. Let’s face it, there’s too much wrestling on TV and you don’t have time to watch it all. So let Face To Heel help! Each blurb will give limited details and will not contain any spoilers, unless you click on the links to read the article. Let us know what you think about this idea in the comments below. Enjoy!
–The week really got off to a strong start as Monday Night Raw had one of its best episodes of the year. The show kicked off with Sasha Banks in an inter-gender mixed tag match as her and Enzo Amore took on Chris Jericho and Charlotte. The main event was Seth Rollins vs Sami Zayn and the night ended with a violent encounter between Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton. Read our full article review, results and feedback HERE.
–In only its second full length live episode, Smackdown failed to deliver and was back to the same old formula. Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler started the broadcast with very dismal promos, draining excitement from their SummerSlam match. The main event featured Dolph Ziggler putting his #1 Contender spot on the line against Bray Wyatt. Read our full article review, results and feedback HERE.
–On Wednesday night, the WWE Network brought us a much edgier NXT broadcast. The opening bout featured the return of Hideo Itami. Samoa Joe viciously interrupted a match, Bayley put her fighting gloves on, and we saw the GLORIOUS television debut of Bobby Roode. He didn’t wrestle but put everyone on notice that things were about to change at Full Sail. Read our full article review, results and feedback HERE.
–Following NXT, the final first round of the Cruiserweight Classic gave us some fairly decent matches, the highlights being Italy’s Fabian Aichner taking on Jack Gallagher from England, and the main event. Aichner and Gallagher really put on a clinic, firing up the Full Sail crowd. And in the main bout, NXT tag partners Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano had what may be a Match of the Year contender. Read our full article review, results and feedback HERE.
–The BFG playoffs came to an end Thursday night with Ethan Carter III taking on The Miracle, Mike Bennett for a shot to main event Bound For Glory. James Storm challenged Eli Drake for the King of the Mountain Championship, and Bobby Lashley got a new opponent to put his titles on the line against next week. Read our full article review, results and feedback HERE.
–Friday gave us three amazing episodes of New Japan Pro Wrestling from AXSTV, featuring title bouts, great hel work, and the typical strong-style we expect from our friends on the other side of the world. Read our full article review, results and feedback HERE.
Article by Jamie Curtis Baker
I had to stop and wonder if maybe today was my birthday and I just forgot. I woke up, turned on the television and saw three all new episodes of New Japan Pro Wrestling on the DVR. I cannot wait to start watching, so let’s get started. The three broadcasts feature matches from October 12th, 2015 Ryogoku Kokugikan, also known as Ryougoku Sumo Hall, from Sumida, Japan. The matches will be presented in three parts.
First bout on the first episode features Tomoaki Honma versus Yoshi-Hashi. Yoshi-Hashi comes out first, brandishing a long, red walking stick. Yoshi-Hashi goes right for Honma’s injured lower back which is taped up. They spill outside the ring and Yoshi-Hashi throws his opponent around against the steel barricade. He then hits Honma in the gut with the red walking stick. Half Botson crab hold by Yoshi-Hashi but Honma crawls to the rope and breaks it. Twice during the opening minutes Honma tries for a running headbutt dive and misses wildly. Commercial break.
After the break Honma’s back causes him to crumple to the mat. He manages to suplex Yoshi-Hashi and then finally lands the headbutt. Quick DDT and then he climbs the top rope. Honma jumps off and lands a blockbuster on Yoshi-Hashi. Near pinfall, but a kick out at two. Honma takes control but he misses with a diving headbutt off the top rope. Both men down. Powerbomb by Yoshi-Hashi into a bridge pinfall, but Honma kicks out at two. Two headbutts by Honma but Yoshi-Hashi kicks out at two. Diving headbutt off the top rope by Honma connects and he gets the pinfall victory. Okay match. Pretty straight-forward with no real surprises. Several moves were over-utilized and neither guy really looked as if their heart was in it. Flat interviews by both afterwards. Slow start to the show.
This next one shouldn’t disappoint. It features Shinsuke Nakamura, Toru Yano, and Kazushi Sakuraba versus Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows, and Bad Luck Fale. Nakamura and Anderson start the match. Fast action to kick things off and a moderate applauds from the crowd. Gallows and Sakuraba tag in. Gallows chops him in the throat. Bedlam breaks out ringside as Anderson and Fale beat down Nakamura. Sakuraba is isolated in Gallows’ corner and Bad Luck Fale is tagged in. Anderson and Nakamura make their way back in and go to work. Crowd showing some love to Nakamura. The goofy Yano tags in to take on Fale. Crowd cheers. Yano is quite a character. Tama Tonga runs in as Gallows distracts the ref and tries to take out Yano. But he lowblows both Yano and Fale. Yano covers and gets the pinfall! Absolutely ridiculous. Of all the talent in this match, Yano wins it. HaHa. Too Funny. This match suffered from being way too short.
The main event for the first episode is Togi Makabe defending his NEVER Openweight Championship against Tomohiro Ishii. Slow grind to start this one. Outside the ring Makabe throws Ishii against the barricade multiple times. The two agree to get back in the ring and fight. HaHa. Double clothesline, neither goes down. This one turns into a hoss match with both men beating the hell out of each other in simple ways. This one is cool if you loike big man strong style, but it doesn’t really deliver the wow factor of a championship bout for me. The match ends when Ishii hits a vertical brainbuster on Makabe and wins the title. After the match Tomoaki Honma, whom we saw earlier, comes out to challenge Ishii for his newly acquired title.
The second episode features Part 2 of the October 12th matches. Our opening contest has champion Kenny Omega defending his IWGP Junior Heavyewight Championship against Matt Sydal. Fast action to start the show, crowd is lively. Omega takes a break from the action to get a drink of water, then spits it on Sydal. Omega then takes the tape off his wrist, balls it up and throws it at his opponent. Hard backbreaker by the champ and he’s clearly in control. Sydal recovers with a flurry of offense and a dive out of the ring. He gets a huge reversal and damn near pins the champ. Crowd very appreciative. But a full Nelson suplex and a running knee sets up Omega’s One Winged Angel finisher and he pins the challenger to retain. Good start to the show, exciting match to watch. Could have benefited from another few minutes.
The second match and main event features Hiroshi Tanahashi putting his Tokyo Dome IWGP Heavyweight Championship #1 Contender spot (basically Japan’s Money in the Bank briefcase) on the line against the villainous Tetsuya Naito. This is a rematch from the G1 Climax tournament back in June in which Naito bested Tanahashi. The winner of this match will main event Wrestle Kingdom early next year. Naito takes his time getting to the ring and allowing the match to start. Tanahashi dropkicks Naito outside the ring but quickly pays for it as Naito starts tossing him around against the steel railing. Naito sets Tanahashi up on the apron and crashes him down to the floor with a reverse DDT. Naito sets up a chair, sets Tanahashi in and then runs and drop kicks him back into the barricade. Naito rolls in the ring and sets up a chair. He kicks back and relaxes as Red Shoes starts a 20 count. Tanahashi makes it back in at 18 seconds. Naito goes to work stomping him in the corner and then sets him up on the ropes. Naito rubs his foot on Tanahashi and then dropkicks him. Naito spits in Tanahashi’s face. Tanahashi’s lip is busted open.
Tanahashi goes to work on Naito’s legs and he barely gets out of a Texas Cloverleaf submission. This bout is so evenly matched that I can barely pull my eyes away to type. Both men want to destroy the other and neither is backing down. The pair work the crowd into a frenzy at times. Tanahashi employs some quick chain-wrestling and drops Naito. Crowd starts chanting for him. Naito hits a Slingblade, near fall on Tanahashi. Naito throws Tanahashi into Red Shoes and the ref is down. Naito’s new partner, Takaaki Watanabe, comes into the ring and the two provide a beatdown to Tanahashi. Katsuyori Shibata and Hirooki Goto run in to save the day, dropping Naito and Watanabe. Shibata tries to revive Red Shoes, who rolled out of the ring. Low blow in the ring by Naito and a nearfall on Tanahashi as Red Shoes comes in for the count. Slingblade counter by Tanahashi, and then he climbs to the top rope. High Fly Flow splash and then another into a pinfall. Three counts later and Tanahashi is still going to the Toyko Dome. After the match, Goto and Watanabe fight. Shibata runs Watanabe out of the ring. Naito walks out with his new protege, smiling, as if the result of the match didn’t even register. He was just happy to cause chaos in the ring. What an amazing match. Well told, great execution, and a strong debut from Watanabe. Naito continues his phenomenal work as an evil heel.
The third and final episode features, you guessed it, part three of the Oct. 12 matches. The entire 60 minute episode will be devoted to Kazuchika Okada defending his IWGP Heavyweight Championship against A.J. Styles. Styles comes out first with fellow Bullet Club members Anderson, Gallows, and Tonga. Red Shoes is the referee for this one. These two have battled four times this year, splitting the outcomes. The bell rings and here we go. The crowd starts an A.J. Styles chant, but he yells at them to shut up. “I know who I am!” and he points to the Bullet Club and says that’s all he needs and they’re his family. Okada goes to work on the left arm of Styles, wrenching it behind his back to start. Styles reverses it and pushes him against the ropes. Back and forth, quick grappling from both. They part and the crowd applauds. The two trade slaps and Styles wobbles down to his butt, shocked. The Bullet Club gets involved early, dragging Okada out of the ring and beating the hell out of him as Styles distracts the ref. Tonga powerbombs Okada on the apron and rolls him back into the ring. Near fall, but Okada manages to kick out at two.
After a commercial break, Styles runs the table, keeping Okada down and winded. Okada recovers with a DDT and finally gets back to his feet. He misses with an elbow but dropkicks Styles out of the ring. Okada tries to whip Styles into the barricade, but he leaps over it. Then Okada plants him with a DDT on the ground. He throws Styles into the ring and gets a near fall. Styles manages to reach the ropes to break the count. Springboard forearm by Styles drops Okada. He follows it up with a gut-buster and a cover. Okada kicks out. Styles suplexes Okada into the corner. The two trade forearms in the middle of the ring, dropping one another. Huge dropkick by Okada, crowd erupts. There is just so much high caliber offense in this one. Okada covers Styles, but Anderson grabs his feet and pulls him out of the ring. Okada throws Anderson into the guard rail and then climbs back in the ring. Instead of going after Styles, he bounces off the ropes and flips out of the ring, taking down all three members of the Bullet Club. Back in the ring, Styles puts Okada on the top rope. He superplexes him to the mat and covers. Okada barely kicks out. Commercial break.
When we return, Styles tries to get Okada to tap with several leg submissions. Okada struggles to hold on. He crawls to the ropes and lunges out to break the hold. But the damage is done. Moments later, Okada hits a Tombstone Piledriver on Styles. Okada is too tired to cover Styles, writhing as he holds his left knee. Back on their feet, Okada hits a series of vicious clotheslines. He follows it up with the Rain Maker finisher and pins Styles! Crowd goes wild. This was Okada’s first title defense and he was successful in more ways than one. He goes on to face Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom. What a spectacular match. This was so good, eaxctly what pro-wrestling should be. It shows how great two athletes can be when they care about what they are doing in the ring. Anderson and Gallows help carry Styles out. In the ring, Okada says A.J. helped add to the shine of the belt. Crowd applauds. Tanahashi enters the ring behind him. He says, “Next time…it’s me and you Tanahashi.” He hands the mic over and Tanahashi says Okada is the champion and he’s the man. Tanahashi says the man should be champion.
The trio of episodes started off slow, but grew better and better as the night went on, culminating in an exceptional second half of the three hour block. Josh Barnett and Jim Ross did another round of fantastic commentary, covering each moment with clarity and professionalism. The highlights were, of course, Naito and Tanahashi, and Styles vs Okada. The top guys at New Japan Pro Wrestling are some of the finest damn athletes on the planet. Can’t even believe TNA wasted both Okada and Styles when they were with their company. Shame. Now it appears that WWE is going to waste Styles much the same. At least we will always have his NJPW work. If you plan on watching last night’s episodes, I would advise skipping the first one and just watching the final two. You’ll thank me later. What did you think of our breakdown and the matches? Let us know in the comments below. Currently, my DVR schedule doesn’t show any new NJPW episodes next week, so it might be a few weeks before we write about them again. But as soon as they are on, we’ve got ya covered. Have a good weekend, wrestling fans!
Article by Jamie Curtis Baker
The first round is almost over! Round two of the Cruiserweight Classic starts next week. But first let’s see what the WWE Network has in store for us and who is going to advance.
Rich Swann (USA) takes on Jason Lee (Hong Kong) in our first match. Bit of a snoozefest during both men’s introduction video. Neither inspired excitement. Hopefully they are better in the ring. Swann is clearly the fan favorite, they dance and sing his entrance theme after the bell rings. Strong opening for both men in this one. Lee is stiff and Swann is fast and loose, flying all over the place. Pretty evenly matched throughout. Standing 450 Splash from Swann hands Lee his walking papers. Crowd cheers and claps along.
Noam Dar (Scotland) against Gurv Shira (India) for the second bout. Dar is fighting for Ireland, but he mentions being born in Israel and says he will represent both. Mauro says he is the first Israeli born wrestler ever on WWE, and Bryan says he is the youngest competitor in the entire tournament. No pressure. Run of the mill start to the match, with both guys going through the motions. Dar is a little too hyper, celebrating after every move trying to engage the Full Sail crowd. They aren’t buying it. In fact, this is the quietest the crowd has been so far during the show. This is a pretty lackluster match. One of the worst we’ve seen so far in this tournament. Leg bar submission by Dar and Shira taps out. Really mediocre match. Not feeling this one at all.
Fabian Aichner (Italy) and Jack Gallagher (England) square off next. Good intro packages for both guys. Wrist lock by Gallagher to start. Aichner flips around trying to break it and finally reverses it down to the mat. Crowd has some energy back at the start of this one. Big strong outing from Aichner who has the clear size advantage. Awesome tilt-a-whirl backbreaker by Aichner but Gallagher manages to kick out at two. Double springboard moonsault from Aichner! Lands perfectly and gets a two count on his pin attempt. Gallagher manages to get Aichner down to the mat. Huge powerbomb out of a reversal by Aichner and the crowd goes wild. Gallagher kicks out at two. Aichner misses with a frog splash. Sprinting dropkick across the ring by Gallagher in the corner and he pins Aichner for the win. Crowd really into this one. Very exciting match. Both these guys really brought it and managed to fire up the audience. Good show, fantastic pairing. Crowd starts a “Thank you, both!” chant.
The main event should be a good’un. Tag team partners from NXT, Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano are putting their team aside for the night to battle each other for a spot in the second round. Both boys representing the United States. Slow start for this one. Crowd quiet. Ciampa clobbers Gargano with a huge elbow. It looked like it hurt. Wow. Ciampa is turned up to 11. He chops Gargano outside the ring and then mocks the crowd. Gargano recovers with a vicious DDT and gets a two count. Hard chops in the corner from Gargano. He lifts Ciampa up to the top rope but it’s blocked. Powerbomb and a dive outside the ring from Gargano, crowd eats it up. The duo trade chops on the apron. Ciampa picks Gargano up and slams him on his back on the apron. Rolls him into the ring and covers. Gargano kicks out at two. Crowd starts a well-deserved “This Is Awesome!” chant. Gargano steals a win with a rolling crucifix cover! My goodness! That was out of nowhere! What a match! Well, whenever these guys are done being a tag team, both are going to be big time singles competitors. That was exceptional. Easily my favorite match of the entire first round. They saved the absolute best for last. A+. If that isn’t a Match of the Year Slammy candidate I don’t know what is.
The second round beings next Wednesday and we can’t wait to see what other tricks the remaining 16 guys have for us. What did you think of tonight’s episode? Let us know in the comments below.
Article by Jamie Curtis Baker