Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Top 10 wrestlers of WWE, December 2015 edition

We close off the Top 10 lists for this week with another look at the stars of WWE and where they fall as the year ends and Royal Rumble season begins. Remember to keep these listings in mind while making your votes for the ten best wrestlers of the year.

And it all kicks off with someone that came in near the top of the NXT list earlier this year...

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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The NJPW Top 10

As we close out 2015, I continue my look at some of the top wrestlers in various promotions as the year draws to a close. This time around, the focus turns to New Japan as it ramps up for its January 4th Wrestle Kingdom 10 event.

Coming off of the World Tag League, New Japan seems to be firing on all cylinders with amazing talent, great import stars from Ring of Honor and a bevy of talent itching to put on the best matches they can. This is New Japan's Wrestlemania season and even in their smaller events they are really showing that fire in six and eight man tags. 

Image credit: NJPW

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The ROH Top 10

I don't follow Ring of Honor as regularly as I once did now that the regular late night broadcast of the show I used to watch here in Eastern Iowa has became very late night. I do occasionally watch the streamed episodes after they air, but I often find the promotion to be incredibly weak booking wise. Often I feel like they hold off on pushes of hot talents until they grow cold while pushing many stars that the ROH faithful just feel flat about. That doesn't stop the company from having some amazing matches still and as they recently closed out their year with Final Battle it seemed like a fitting time to introduce their inaugural top ten.

Remember, all these talents are available for your voting pleasure in the year end Top 10 list!

So without anymore ado, let's get to the countdown!

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Announcing the Wrestling Weekday Top 10 Wrestlers of 2015... and a call for your vote!

The Wrestling Weekday has been presenting Top 10 lists for the better part of its existence as we look at the top stars from WWE, NXT and even 1985. But as 2015 comes to a close, we open up the voting ranks to the fans to give everyone a chance to make their own personal best wrestlers list as we seek to crown the ten best wrestlers of 2015. I will then compile them into a complete list of the ten biggest stars of 2015, as ESO PRO Presents the Wrestling Weekday Top 10 Wrestlers of 2015.

It is a pretty simple process: all you have to do to put in your vote is to send me your list of top wrestlers anywhere in the world. You can make your list short as one or as long as twenty, but it needs to be ranked in order of best to worst. Send your choices to wwfmegs{at}yahoo{dot}com (or leave them in the comments below) and I will tally the full list mixed with my own top ten to give a full list of the top stars of 2015.

The only requirement for a wrestler to be eligible for the list is if they were active in the calendar year 2015 as an in ring worker. Promotions, gender and age are not limited, just as long as they wrestled a match at some point in the year 2015. Wrestlers should be rated on quality of match rather than out of match promos or shenanigans, all though those can be taken into account as an overall reason for your choice. Tag teams and units must be listed separately on this list. If you feel they had equal levels of performance in your list of twenty, please put them one after another.

Though it is not required, any commentary on the wrestlers you chose and why you chose them would be appreciated, as it will be included as thoughts on the wrestler in the final Top Ten list. The full list will start counting down on January 4th with number 10 and countdown daily after that, ending on January 15th with number 1. All lists must be sent in by midnight January 3rd Central Standard Time.

We welcome any and all lists as we set out to make the ten best wrestlers in the world known for 2015! And we will talk more about our official sponsor for this event, ESO PRO, when the list goes live with number ten a week from today!

 And thanks again for reading The Wrestling Weekday!

Top 10 image designed by Sam Churchill and used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license

Friday, December 25, 2015

Celebrate Christmas with Xanta Claus

The NXT Advent Calendar is over and today will be filled with holiday cheer for my family. But twenty years ago, Christmas wasn't so bright in WWE, because that was the debut of Xanta Claus, the real Santa's evil twin brother, as he attacked Savio Vega.

While he wouldn't last in WWE long, Xanta would change his name to Balls Mahoney and make quite a career for himself in ECW, even if his family heritage never really came into play.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

NXT Advent Calendar Day 24: The NXT Top 10 for the end of 2015

Another Takeover is behind us, and that means it is time to take a look at the top ten stars in NXT once again. Last time Bayley took the top spot. This time several new stars and teams have changed the complexion of the list entirely. Just a reminder: The first number in parentheses is the wrestler's previous rank (a U means unranked) and the second number is their number of times ranked on this list consecutively.

  1. Sami Zayn: Having just returned to NXT during the UK tour, Zayn's position as part of NXT's future is still a bit unclear. But just his presence changes the complexion of NXT for the better. (U/1) 
  2. Apollo Crews: After an amazing run since Takeover: Brooklyn, it is hard to argue that his first in ring loss to Baron Corbin hurt a lot of Apollo's momentum. It remains to be seen whether he can pick himself up again and re-enter the NXT title picture sooner rather than later. (5/2)
  3. Emma: Takeover: London can only be described as a success for Emma, even in a loss. For the first time since Arrival, she looked like a seriously contender for the NXT Women's Title. She might not be first in line, but that opener cemented her as an important part of the current NXT roster. (U/1)
  4. Jason Jordan & Chad Gable: The mat wrestling masters are in a great place now as the fan support since Takeover Respect has transformerd them into a team everyone wants to see. They have nothing but upside going into 2016 and the Assistplex is easily the move of the year in 2015. (6/2)
  5. Dash & Dawson: Dash & Dawson proved their ability as an old school wrestling machine in their battle against Enzo & Cass in London. And while they might not be the biggest stars NXT currently has, more moves like the amazing Super Shatter Machine they pulled off could up their profile even more. (U/1)
  6. Baron Corbin: Love him or hate him, Baron Corbin finally looks like a superstar rather than a man being forced down fan's throats. While his attitude both in ring and out of it (as shown on Breaking Ground) is the kind of thing that rubs people the wrong way, he certainly seems ready to take his place in a main event feud with Finn Balor. (9/2)
  7. Asuka: The fans love her, she's completely convincing in the ring and her crazy demeanor makes every move work to perfection. The former Kana is poised to innovate women's wrestling in WWE come 2016. After a potential battle with Nia Jax, she seems poised to challenge Bayley at Takeover: Dallas come Wrestlemania weekend. (7/2)
  8. Bayley: After two classic matches against Sasha Banks, her match with Nia Jax can only feel like a demotion. But her fight from behind babyface win over Jax continues to help Bayley grow as a top star and finally gives her a submission move to match the other Four Horsewomen. (1/2)
  9. Samoa Joe: Samoa Joe looked dominant against Finn Balor with only luck seeming to allow the champ to walk out as the winner in London. While it is anyone's guess where their feud goes next, I suspect Joe and Balor are not done by a longshot. A future program with Apollo Crews could also serve to make both men shine brighter in 2016. (4/2)
  10. Finn Balor: Back atop the NXT roster firmly after his Jack the Ripper entrance and astounding victory over Samoa Joe, Finn is in a strange place in NXT. No one can argue he's not ready to become a massive star on the main roster with an entrance second only to the Undertaker at this point and a wrestling style that could make him the next Daniel Bryan or CM Punk in ring. Now it seems to be just a waiting game for Finn to take his place as a top star of the main brand as he has NXT. (3/2)

Finn takes on Jack the Ripper. Image credit: Uproxx via WWE Network.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

NXT Advent Calendar Day 23: The future is bright for NXT

While NXT is always in flux thanks to the nature of WWE call ups, it is also a promotion that is now frequently bringing in great independent talent to heighten the action. While folks like Finn Balor, Kevin Owens and Apollo Crews have made huge impacts in the last year, the company still has more hires waiting to make their debut.

Rich Swann still doesn't have a WWE ring name, but he's easily the most accomplished of WWE's non-televised talent. A regular in Dragon Gate USA, EVOLVE and CZW, he made a name for himself both for his amazing high flying style but also for his love for fun and a bit of humor. I've got two great matches featuring him below, the first against unsigned NXT talent Johnny Gargano and the other against three other future WWE/NXT talents: Sami Callihan (formerly Solomon Crowe), Luke Harper and Neville.

Athena was one of the top female stars on the indies, wrestling both men and women and finishing them with the incredible to watch O-Face, a top rope diving corkscrew stunner. Here she is in a battle with indie superstar Mia Yim, otherwise known as TNA's Jade. Now signed and working live events under a variation of her real name Adrien Reese, I would expect her to get a new name before she debuts.

Biff Busick was signed with Swann and Athena, and has also made his live event debut under his real name. A regular in both EVOLVE and CZW, his highly technical style brought him the most recognition in PWG. He even made the painful acquaintance of a woman that made her WWE debut at this year's Wrestlemania, one Ronda Rousey.

PWG has fun pretending they don't know their famous fan, but Busick was a guy that could be serious in the ring. Take a look at this technical classic against current EVOLVE champion Timothy Thatcher, from another Busick regular stop, the Beyond Wrestling promotion.

With all three of these stars likely to make their television debut in the next few months, I suspect 2016 will only continue NXT's rise as the best pro wrestling brand in the world today.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

NXT Advent Calendar Day 22: Asuka plays with sexuality in SMASH

I first learned of Kana during her time working for the SMASH promotion in 2010 through 2012. Her high impact style quickly drew my interest. Already a fan of the deep American independent women's wrestlers regularly competing in Shimmer, she sparked my interest in modern Japanese joshi. Her character was pure evil, but it also introduced some undertones that were not very traditional in wrestling, especially when she came into contact with Lin Bairon.

Bairon was a longtime independent female star as Ray, but she unmasked for SMASH as a supposed international traveler returning to Japan to wrestle for the company. She even spoke English to hide her background as Ray. She worked for awhile as one of SMASH's core stars alongside Tajiri, Akira, Syuri and Kushida. But she would soon turn on that unit after jealousy for Syuri got the best of her and joined the Finnish star Michael Kovac. She actually used the nickname "Bitch" at the time as she tried to get over her international bad girl image.

Unfortunately for her, she ran into an even badder girl in the form of Kana. Kana had named herself the one true great female wrestler in the world with only her Triple Tails partners as even close to her equals. Calling herself the World Famous Kana, she beat several men on the SMASH roster before she entered their Divas title tournament. This brought her into battle with Lin Bairon in a match that would emphasize the more sexual side of Kana's gimmick.

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Throughout the match, Kana clearly shows interest in Lin, even if she wasn't going to let Bairon leave with the victory. It was after the match though that things got really strange. Kana wanted to embarrass Bairon and she decided the best way to do so was to take the jumpsuit off her opponent. It's a weird scene and if you're interested in it, you can watch the video of it on Youtube.

The lesbian overtones of Kana's style aren't completely gone from Asuka's gimmick, but they've certainly been downplayed. But with WWE hiring their first openly lesbian talent in Daria Beranato, it remains to be seen if that might change as Asuka becomes more and more of a fixture in NXT.

Monday, December 21, 2015

NXT Advent Calendar Day 21: Tyler Breeze's long road to WWE superstardom

Back in 2007, a young Canadian by the name of Mattias Wild started to wrestling for companies like Extreme Canadian Championship Wrestling, Power Zone Wrestling and the Prairie Wrestling Alliance, all small Canadian independents. But while he never became a name of note on the independent circuit outside his home country, he did train under Lance Storm. And he happened to do so at just the right time.

As he started under Storm's tutelage, Lance had a television series about his training on Canadian television called World of Hurt. Emma and Sylvester LeFort were hired by WWE shortly after the series and several other Storm trainees would get the call as well. Mattias would be one of them.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

NXT Advent Calendar Day 20: Hideo Itami versus a WWE star that stole his finisher

Before Hideo Itami made his way to WWE's developmental roster, he had two finishers very different from the Shotgun Kick and double foot stomp he used as his finishers in NXT. The more famous of the moves is one he innovated and helped popularize, a fireman's carry drop knee strike called the Go To Sleep. When CM Punk came into WWE, he adopted the move and the GTS became a hugely popular move the world over.

But it wasn't his only finisher stolen by a major WWE star. His striking finisher long before the Shotgun Kick was a running single leg high knee which was as fast as it was brutal in appearance. The Busaiku Knee Kick put down a ton of opponents in the physical sport-oriented Pro Wrestling NOAH.

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

NXT Advent Calendar Day 19: Two huge stars at war

Before Kevin Owens ripped his way through NXT, Kevin Steen ripped his way through Ring of Honor. And while his run with that company was often contentious, he helped revive the brand quite a bit in the days after the loss of Tyler Black and Bryan Danielson.

He stuck with the company until mid-2014 which was a boon for fans of great wrestling. With ROH's deal with New Japan Pro Wrestling, crossover matches started to happen and none were bigger in this blogger's humble opinion than the battle between the rebellious star of ROH against the rebellious star of NJPW: Kevin Steen versus Shinsuke Nakamura.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs Kevin Steen 17/05/14 by justkeesethings

And while the match didn't have any deep storyline behind it, it still gave us a fifteen minute classic between two men we may never see meet again.

Friday, December 18, 2015

NXT Advent Calendar Day 18: The wrestling career of Corey Graves

Since debuting at NXT Takeover: R Evolution last year, Corey Graves has proven himself time and again as a stupendous member of the announce team. But before that, he was a solid wrestler with a decade long career before frequent concussions forced him into retirement after three years in development.

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Before that time, he was a star of the independents with the less than stellar ring name of Sterling James Keenan. A regular for Pittsburgh-based IWC, he made his way from Indiana to Florida as a independent talent, but never managed to get more than sporadic appearances in Ring of Honor nor did he ever appear for EVOLVE. He also made frequent trips to the UK, where much of the influence in his style can be seen.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

NXT Advent Calendar Day 17: Takeover London review

Takeover London closed out NXT's special event schedule for 2015 with five explosive matches. And while the show lacked for surprises or big reveals, it did bring two full hours of solid wrestling action from top to bottom.

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The show opened with an impressive fifteen minute battle between Emma and Asuka. While Emma and compatriot Dana Brooke tried to pull out every shady tactic they could to pick up the win, including a chain and a distraction during the Asuka Lock, but Asuka continued her streak of dominance in NXT with a win after an explosive kick.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

NXT Advent Calendar Day 16: Back to the beginning

As NXT prepares to close out a second year of like Takeover specials, it seemed time to look back at the very first such special, just days after the launch of the WWE Network. Arrival is the only NXT show not to carry the Takeover handle, but it certainly kicked off the brand's penchant for great cards. It did so with an amazing opener that ran over twenty minutes as WWE superstar Cesaro took on a man that was quickly becoming the face of NXT, Sami Zayn.

Cesaro and Zayn already had a couple really stupendous battles on the weeks before the event, but it was at Arrival they pulled out all the stops to put on a match for the ages. Every indie encounter they had seemed to lead up to an amazing moment for both men as Cesaro ended his NXT run and Sami Zayn prepped for his slow rise to the main event.

Check out the full match below.

Antonio Cesaro vs Sami Zayn 27-02-14 by bestwrestlingintheworld

Did I mention that I miss Renee Young calling matches?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

NXT Advent Calendar Day 15: Takeover London preview

Takeover London finishes up the NXT event calendar for 2015, but much like R Evolution last December, it looks to send out the WWE's top brand with a huge end of the year event.

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The card is shorter than most recent Takeover cards, shortened from the usual six matches to five despite a longer showtime of 2 hours 30 minutes. This could mean an added match or it could mean an extended Sami Zayn return segment or it could really mean just about anything. But with only five scheduled matches, I would expect each of the announced contests to get at least ten minutes of in ring time, certainly up from a lot of match times at recent NXT supercards.

Monday, December 14, 2015

NXT Advent Calendar Day 14: A young Bayley teams... with her future trainer?

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Today, we all know Bayley as the NXT woman's champion, a leader of an entire division of amazing female wrestlers, a member of the Four Horsewomen and a future main roster megastar. But she's been around a lot longer than that.

Bayley has been in NXT since 2012, but despite playing a plucky young star, she's actually been wrestling since 2008 when she was just eighteen. As Davina Rose, she came up through several California indies before branching out to SHIMMER and Shine.

She considered Big Time Wrestling her home promotion and in May 2011 at their sixth annual Wrestlefest event, she teamed with none other than Sara Del Rey to take on the  team of Amber O'Neal (now Amber Gallows) and Sassy Stephie. The four women would put on an explosive tag team contest on the card where most of the matches were highlighted by wrestling veterans. (Kevin Nash and Sean Waltman wrestled a local team in the main event.) They were given an impressive length of time, and Davina was able to show why she belonged in a match with the more seasoned competitors.

Just over a year later, Sara Del Rey would retire as an active wrestler to take on the role of a coach for NXT (under her real name, Sara Amato.) Six months later, Davina Rose would become one of her students and take the ring name Bayley.

It must have been a strange experience for Bayley to suddenly be training under one of her former peers, but her time on the indies saw her regularly working with a WWE alum already, former Straight Edge Society member Serena. In the three years since her signing, Bayley has become the face of the NXT women's division and a true testament to how much good Sara's training and the presence of Bayley and the other Four Horsewomen have done for women's wrestling in America.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

NXT Advent Calendar Day 13: Six NXT veterans explode at Elimination Chamber 2014

The Wyatt Family came into their own in NXT (after a much weaker run with just Wyatt and WWE footnote Eli Cottonwood in FCW) while The Shield dominated the earliest days of the promotions, albeit as singles competitors. When both factions made it to the main roster, they quickly gained a name for themselves. But it wasn't until the teams started to battle one another that the potential of the two units started to shine. While they went at each other on several occasions, it would be at the 2014 edition of Elimination Chamber that they would have their best contest, an epic battle that received a "This is awesome" chant before the match ever began. It would also serve to cement Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose as babyfaces leading into Wrestlemania XXX and their subsequent battles with Evolution.

Shield vs Wyatt family (720p) by aleem771

All six NXT veterans involved in the battle have become WWE pay-per-view regulars and that shows no sign of ending anytime soon.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

NXT Advent Calendar Day 12: Neville & Finn Balor as a great tag team

Long before Neville and Finn Balor came to NXT, let alone wrestled at NXT Rival, they both regularly worked in Japan. Neville was PAC, a regular of the Dragon Gate promotion, while Balor used his real name Fergal Devitt (or alternately Prince Devitt) in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Both found tons of success, winning both solo and tag team gold in their respective companies.

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But they didn't always remain apart. Japanese wrestling companies are far more likely to lend out their talent to other companies than American ones which brought about PAC into the NJPW Best of the Super Juniors tournament and Devitt into Dragon Gate as an infrequent tag partner with PAC. This gave us a chance to see the two master high flyers with great technical prowess team to take on some of Dragon Gate's regulars.

Watch below as the team of Neville and Finn Balor take on Dragon Gate veterans Ryo Saito and Genki Horiguchi.

Friday, December 11, 2015

NXT Advent Calendar Day 11: Proof of NXT's power with the TLC card

One look at the TLC card shows exactly how far former NXT talent have came in WWE. Out of the twenty-three talents announced as wrestling on the card, a full thirteen of them have served as NXT regulars at some point in their careers. Of those thirteen, four are former tag team champions, two are former women's champions and two are former NXT champions.

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So here is the rundown of the card from bottom to top and a few thoughts on the NXT talents involved.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

NXT Advent Calendar Day 10: The long road to a Perfect 10

The man currently known to us as Tye Dillinger has been wrestling for nearly fifteen years. Debuting in 2001, Shawn Spears was trained by TNA veterans Eric Young and Cody Deaner. For five years, he regularly worked every Canadian indie imaginable as he tried to make a name for himself, frequently coming into battle with the stars of that era from Canada and the US.

Nor is this even his first rodeo in WWE. Shawn Spears signed with WWE nearly a decade ago. Arriving in Ohio Valley Wrestling in the second half of 2006, "The Canadian Sensation" made an impact on the roster with wins over Simon Dean, Cody Rhodes and Idol Stevens (now better known as Damien Sandow.) He won the TV title from a pre-comedy gimmick Santino Marella, which lead to battles with Colt Cabana, Paul Burchill and a very young Wade Barrett.

But when he was finally called up to the ECW brand in 2008 as Gavin Spears, he saw none of the success he had in OVW. Debuting within days of one Scotty Goldman, he followed Colt Cabana's path of barely getting a cup of coffee on the main roster before he was unceremoniously released.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

NXT Advent Calendar Day 9: The former CJ Parker takes Japan!

Image credit: Wikipedia.
I have a ton of respect for Juice Robinson, the artist formerly known as CJ Parker. A talented independent wrestler before his time in NXT, he realized early in 2015 that any push he had was completely stalled. He was already serving as little more than a jobber for incoming talent, with losses to Kevin Owens and Solomon Crowe during his final few weeks with the company. So he did something very few people have the balls to do: he asked for his release so he can go out and make his name elsewhere, with the door to be open to possibly return in the future.

Few people would give up the guaranteed paycheck a WWE superstar gets, one that is usually more than most folks can make on the indies. But Parker did and for a brief time had quite a run on the indies as CJP ranging across the Midwest, Northeast and Florida. When he announced his retirement a couple months later, people were shocked, only to find out he was only retiring the CJP and gimmick. His old name Juice Robinson was back and he was going to Japan full time under contract to NJPW.

And Juice seems to be doing it right in Japan. He's frequently in the first one or two matches on the card, but his fun loving babyface character has captured the Japanese fans' imaginations. Few gaijin get to play the face in Japan, but he does it to perfection, even when he's in peril from some of the dastardly villains on the roster.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

NXT Advent Calendar Day 8: Dean Ambrose in a brutal battle with... an NXT referee?

Before Dean Ambrose came to NXT and joined The Shield, he was Jon Moxley, wild child of EVOLVE and Combat Zone Wrestling. His run at the top of CZW brought him into conflict with one of the longest running stars in CZW history, the legendary hardcore warrior Drake Younger. Younger had switched to a more technical style by the time this match took place in 2010, but that didn't stop both men from brutalizing one another.

Image credit: Wikipedia.
Of course, just as Dean broke up with his Shield brethren on WWE's main roster, Drake signed his own WWE contract. But the accomplished world-traveled independent star signed with WWE not as a wrestler, but as a referee. Since that time, Drake Wuertz has been a staple of the NXT referee pool and proven he's every bit as good in his new role as his old one. While he may never be the star of a Wrestlemania main event, he now has a chance to stand in that ring as he calls it right down the middle.

Unless of course, it involves Dean Ambrose. Then, who knows what will happen.

Monday, December 7, 2015

NXT Advent Calendar Day 7: Back when Becky Lynch managed Paige... and Paige's mom

Interesting cross sections have started to appear on WWE programming now that the promotion has signed so many independent female wrestlers. With Shimmer serving as an amazing showcase for so many of these talents, it often becomes a very odd cross section where future WWE stars first make their connections.

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We all know Paige and Becky Lynch were partners in Team PCB, but I am not sure how many people remember their original alliance from four years ago with a very different talent than Charlotte.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

NXT Advent Calendar Day 6: A six-man ROH match featuring 6 future NXT wrestlers

It is often quite interesting to look at all the major stars from Ring of Honor's past that eventually found themselves in a WWE ring. Back in the promotion's earliest days, it seemed only a handful of stars could ever attract the attention of the world's largest promotion, but that time has changed. Now as we look back at a main event from ROH on HDNet in 2009, we see six men that have found their way into NXT at one time or another.

The American Wolves are top stars in TNA now, but they
had one brief grand NXT moment. Image credit: Wikipedia.
The heel team has a far less storied history with WWE. Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards seemed like they would be the next huge signing for WWE when they made a single appearance on NXT against The Ascension. But The American Pitbulls of Derek Billington and John Cahill would never sign a full contract with WWE and moved on to TNA.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

NXT Advent Calendar Day 5: The 5 count

Big E floated around WWE developmental literally for years. He started with the company way back in 2009 but waited for three years before he debuted on main WWE television. But during the earliest days of NXT as a brand on its own, he quickly became one of the promotion's most beloved talents.

Big E in NXT.
We all know about Big E's natural charisma but it was an ingenious but simple gimmick that really got him over with the Florida fans. Because Big E was so dominant in his matches, he declared the referees should count until five before they counted a pinfall after his finisher.

Friday, December 4, 2015

NXT Advent Calendar Day 4: Sasha Banks wrestles.. her boyfriend?

Before Sasha Banks was the internet's favorite female wrestler, she was simply Mercedes KV. She worked all over the northeast for a couple years from a very young age before her signing with WWE in 2012 at the age of just 20.

Sasha Banks with fiance Mikaze. Image credit:
But one of her most interesting pre-NXT battles came in Beyond Wrestling, a brand known for intergender wrestling. I know very little about two of her opponents: Fury and Fahrenheit, but the fourth individual in the match is none other than Mikaze. Some fans might know Mikaze as WWE's official costume maker, but he also happens to be Sasha's fiance and a wrestler. Earlier this year, an NXT tryout match with him went very wrong and left him injured, but before that he was working on the indies including in this match with a very young Sasha.

Now I have no idea if the two were dating at the time or not, but it is an interesting footnote in the career of perhaps the best female wrestler in the world today.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

NXT Advent Calendar Day 3: James Storm and Rhyno get elevated

One interesting thing about the cross pollination of older talents making a new name for themselves in NXT is their previous encounters. Over the last several months, Rhino has become a staple of the promotion with brutal battles against Finn Balor, Baron Corbin and Samoe Joe. James Storm arrived more recently in NXT but in his battles with Danny Burch and Adam Rose earned him a "You belong here" chant from the crowd.

James Storm and Rhyno (then, simply Rhino) had a prolonged feud during Storm's first singles run with TNA. The two men were brutal to one another with the nefarious Storm trying everything to pick up a win over "The Man-Beast". All of it would culminate in one of TNA's least safe matches ever, their incarnation of the Scaffold Match they called Elevation X.

How ill advised was it? After Rhino competed in two of the matches over two years, it never returned, officially being retired after this battle. It was probably for the best as neither Rhyno nor Storm needed to risk a career threatening injury with another match in the style.

Watch the battle in its full insane glory below.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

NXT Advent Calendar Day 2: The Shield debut

I don't think it can be underestimated how important this moment was to the future of WWE. Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns are clearly three of the superstars that would take the promotion to the next level. They both spent their share of time in FCW (where they had their only match featuring all three against one another) but it is in NXT they came into their own.

The skull masks didn't last long, but they were cool. Image credit: Wikipedia.
Seth Rollins was the very first NXT champion while Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns both had significant places on the development brand's roster before they made the leap to WWE during Survivor Series 2012. They interrupted the triple threat match where CM Punk defended his title against Ryback and John Cena. Ryback became the first victim of their dreaded triple powerbomb in a moment that shook the foundation of WWE.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

NXT Advent Calendar Day 1: Finn Balor vs. Daniel Bryan... in 2007

Throughout the month of December, we will ring in the Christmas season with a special advent calendar made up by the stars of NXT, from before, during and after their runs in the company. 

What better way to kickoff the NXT Advent Calendar than with NXT champion Finn Balor? And how many matches can you think of that are bigger than Balor versus Daniel Bryan. Well, the two men that have wrestled in front of tens of thousands have met exactly once as far as I can tell. They fought in 2007 in front of maybe 200 people at an NWA event during their Reclaiming the Glory tournament to crown the first post-TNA era NWA World Heavyweight champion.

Check out the full match below!

Randomly found #DanielBryan vs #FinnBalor from the indies don't know what year but ENJOY!

Posted by THE SpOtLight on Sunday, August 30, 2015

Monday, November 30, 2015

Goodbye, Solomon. Hello, Sami!

I am a guy that wants to see my favorites succeed. I was a huge Sami Callihan during his run on the independents and I followed a few indies mostly because they regularly featured him. When he was signed by WWE, I had high hopes he would get the kind of push his longtime friend and rival Dean Ambrose did.

When he became Solomon Crowe, that never really happened. Admittedly he had a lot working against him. His girlfriend Jessicka Havok lost a contract offer because of comments posted on her social media years ago. As he started a comeback with Zahra Schreiber as his manager and storyline sister, her own social media history cost her a job with WWE. Crowe seemed to endlessly be thrown back to square one again and again.

Solomon Crowe debuted in February, but never got much of a push in NXT.
Image credit:
Earlier this year, CJ Parker left WWE because he realized he was never going to get a significant push. Already cemented as the NXT jobber, his future was bleak. He moved on, worked a bunch of indies as CJP and then signed a contract with New Japan Pro Wrestling where he is now working and training full time as Juice Robinson.

Friday, November 27, 2015

A women's wrestling classic from Chikara

Back in the early part of our current decade, Chikara debuted a summer time mega-event called Chikarasaurus Rex. It was all about big matches with great guest stars. The first edition from 2010 featured appearances by several Dragon Gate regulars including Shingo Takagi, CIMA and Masato Yoshino (among others) as well as an early indie appearance by Tommy Dreamer. But it was the women's match that most intrigued me as the nefarious duo of Daizee Haze and Sara Del Rey came face to face with two women known for their own dirty tricks in the past: the team of Amazing Kong and Raisha Saeed.

With four of the best women's wrestlers in the history of the business in the ring, the results was something truly special.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The best traditional Survivor Series match ever?

It probably isn't the one most people would pick, but I absolutely love this classic from the 1995 edition of Survivor Series. And as we all celebrate Thanksgiving today, why can't I be thankful for an absolutely amazing women's match during the WWE's Thanksgiving pay-per-view tradition.

Alundra Blayze was soon to jump ship to WCW and do the unthinkable, but that didn't stop her from leading a team of great Japanese wrestlers: Chaparrita ASARI, Kyoko Inoue, & Sakie Hasegawa against her perennial rival Bertha Faye and her own unit of stellar AJW alums: Aja Kong, Lioness Asuka and Tomoko Watanabe. The match cemented a major new contender for Blayze in the form of the classic original Kong, the woman everyone's favorite Awesome competitor took her name from.

It will also make you hate Vince McMahon's treatment of women's wrestlers as well, because his commentary is patronizing at best. But even with him in the way, he can't stop eight women from putting on a classic.

Alundra Blayze, Chaparrita ASARI, Kyoko Inoue... by mbahbomaye

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A match with an actual underdog story

Look, WWE is really trying to make us root for Roman Reigns because he's being picked on by the Authority. We get it. We don't like it but we get it. We will still cheer for Reigns at TLC I suspect, mostly because we do not want to imagine more than three weeks of Sheamus as the top of the WWE roster.

But back in 2013, WWE seemed to built the story the right way, even if they came very close to not letting it play out the right way come Wrestlemania XXX. But let's go back to SummerSlam of that year and look at a classic encounter between perennial super-face John Cena and up-and-coming perpetual underdog Danial Bryan. Let the magic happen, folks.

John Cena vs Daniel Bryan, Summerslam 2013 by vsplanet

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

NJPW kicks off the World Tag League with some amazing new teams

I provided in depth coverage of the G1 Climax tournament over the summer, and though I was disappointed Hiroshi Tanahashi won the tournament and the Wrestle Kingdom X title shot over Shinsuke Nakamura, all the amazing wrestling action was well worth it. Michael Elgin especially won over Japanese fans in ways he hasn't been allowed to do in Ring of Honor.

As November turns to December, it becomes time for the tag team version of the tournament. Even more American talent found their way into the World Tag League tournament than the G1. Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian make their debut as a team in NJPW while regulars The Kingdom and the Bullet Club unit of Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson (also the tag champions) are also involved. Bullet Club's leader AJ Styles is also in action, teaming with Yujiro Takahashi. The aforementioned Michael Elgin also returns to New Japan to join the tournament teaming with G1 winner Tahahashi in an epic unit.

Tanahashi and Elgin make an amazing team.
All images credit NJPW.
Perhaps the most interesting unit is the Los Ingobernables team of Tetsuya Naito and his new partner EVIL. Formerly a well known talent in America for the last few years on excursion, Takaaki Watanabe, took the EVIL identity upon his return to his home country. Clad in a purple robe and carrying a scythe, he certainly maes an imposing figure as the slightly insane unit cheats their way to victory.

Tetsuya Naito and EVIL with new Ingobernable recruit BUSHI.
Night one actually opened with one of the biggest matches of the tournament as Tanahashi and Elgin met Tanahashi's Wrestle Kingdom X opponent Kazuchika Okada and his partner Yoshi-Hashi. The two teams put on an epic 18 minutes which ultimately served to showcase how entertaining a team Elgin and Tanahashi make.

The other live episode this weekend wasn't populated by too many exciting tag tournament matches, but it was main evented by a highly entertaining "Special Fun Match". Elgin and Tanahashi teamed with the former CJ Parker, now using his old ring name of Juice Robinson, They battled the CHAOS unit of Toru Yano, Shinsuke Nakamura and Tomohiro Ishii in a battle built around great fun.

Ultimately, the World Tag League doesn't quite have the notoriety of the G1, but it still brings some great wrestling action available on demand worldwide on NJPW World. Check it out if you're so inclined.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Survivor Series continues the trend: solid but predictable

One thing that cannot be said about WWE pay-per-views in the last few months is that they have been particularly bad. 80 to 90 percent of each show generally offers some great wrestling and even the backstage antics have proven far more oriented towards the product than the cheap comedy of yesteryear. In the ring, performers are going all out like never before with some stellar matches.

But while the show gives you great wrestling, it doesn't give you much in the way of surprise. Part of the wow of big events is the "anything can happen" nature of the live event. But in the post-SummerSlam run it has tended to be easy to guess the outcome of each match. And while Hell in a Cell offered the surprise return of Alberto Del Rio, Survivor Series didn't come with a spectacular debut or a shocking finish to a match. In fact, the only surprise on the card at all was the return of Goldust to the active WWE roster and that happened on the preshow.

I'm hugely excited that Goldust is back, but his return isn't exactly earth
shattering new. Image credit: 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Alberto Del Rio takes on ROH... and Christopher Daniels!

Alberto Del Rio made a lot of stops between his first WWE run and his current push towards another shot at the WWE World Heavyweight championship. Most famously he worked in AAA and Lucha Underground, but he also had a few stellar matches in Ring of Honor. And while many past and present ROH stars like Samoa Joe, Bryan Danielson and CM Punk made it to WWE, Christopher Daniels seems perpetually off WWE's radar. It is a shame really, as the former "Fallen Angel" truly would make a great mentor to help deepen the NXT roster, much as Rhyno has done in the last few months.

While we may never see Christopher Daniels on WWE television, let's look at an amazing battle between him and the current United States champion.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A classic Monster's Ball match featuring... Dustin Rhodes?

Back in 2007, Goldust was let go from WWE and it seemed likely he would never return. He made his way to TNA where he took a bit more supernatural twist when he became Black Reign. Sure, it was still clearly a slightly effeminate Dustin Rhodes, but now he seemed to have a more mystic and sadistic side to him. He would form a team with Rellik (Killer spelled backwards), but his sadistic streak would seemingly come back to haunt hi as he wrestled in deathmatch variation after deathmatch variation.

Probably his finest moment was a four way Monster's Ball match featuring two of the innovators of that match, Raven and Abyss, as well as a man that was no stranger to hardcore, Rhino. The match isn't exactly a classic, but it is four veterans of the business putting their all in an attempt to get more recognition for their craft in a company mired in midcard doldrums.

Monday, November 16, 2015

After Seth Rollins: The Good & The Bad

After suffering a knee injury last week, Seth Rollins had to vacate the title. Luckily for the WWE, they have some time before Survivor Series to put together a plot that will see a new champion crowned. This has created some great moments, but there is also one big stupid mistake they made that's bothered me all week, which I will get to at the end of the post.

The tournament for the title is a great idea, although the people chosen for the event was somewhat strange. No Sheamus, no Big Show, no Brock Lesnar, none of the Wyatt family, no one in New Day, and there are a whole bunch of guys at the bottom who could have used the exposure, guys like Bo Dallas who haven't been on top in a while. However, we are going to get a great match between Roman Reigns and Cesaro next week, which I think will be the highlight match of the night.

Ryback, who last month was IC champion, lost his match to Kalisto. My guess is they see Kalisto as the next Rey Mysterio, but he's a strange wrestler to push through the tournament. What a far way to fall for Ryback in such a short time though.

Now here is the ugly part of the tournament: Alberto Del Rio VS Stardust. Here was a perfect opportunity to put Stardust over with the crowd. For one, he should have been given some mic time at the beginning of the match. It would have been great if he had come out after Coulter's rant and said "I may be nuts, but that guy is crazy!"

See, here is what could have happened: Goldust beats Del Rio and goes on to face Kalisto. After a hard fought battle, Stardust cheats to beat the young Luchador. This could have set up a match between Dean Ambrose and Stardust, with both men doing their best to outdo the other in a completely insane brawl between two mentally unstable wrestlers.

Instead, you know what is going to happen?

Alberto Del Rio is going to offer Kalisto a spot in his stupid MexiAmerica, which he will refuse. Then Kalisto will lose and Del Rio will get beat by Ambrose. Ultimately, Del Rio's matches in the tournament aren't going to mean much. Had they put Stardust over, you could have him and Del Rio rematch for the US title. If Stardust had won, the match would have meant something. Now its just a platform for the writers to showcase the horrible, crappy, idea that is MexiAmerica. I am glad Del Rio is back, but this heel promo they are putting him through is ridiculous.

Now everyone is pretty certain that its going to come down to Ambrose VS Reigns, but I have a feeling that Reigns is going to see that title slip away and he's going to turn heel and take out Ambrose. This might lead to some interesting matches, especially if the Rock returns to Wrestlemania.

I tell you what, WWE, you give me a Reigns/Rock Wrestlemania match and I'll forgive you for the bad booking, okay?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Trios champions are crowned in Lucha Underground

The Trios title in Lucha Underground created some great teams and introduced some awesome talents to the brand (like Killshot and The Mack), but the story was really all about the mismatched team of Angelico, Son of Havoc and Ivelisse. But even as they thought the titles were theirs, one more team came in to spoil the fun: Dario Cueto's chosen unit of The Crew.

But the dysfunctional team wasn't going to give up with a fight and the result was some of the most epic action in a wrestling arena.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The original Sin Cara and a gaggle of Lucha Underground stars in action

Fenix and Pentagon Jr made a name for themselves in the United States as two of the most compelling figures in Lucha Underground. Angelico made a name for himself as well with a cocky swagger and a regular habit of pulling off insane stunts, while Jack Evans returned to American television to out cocky him.

All four men are also AAA regulars, where Angelico and Jack Evans are actually a long time tag team. (Sharp eyed Lucha Underground fans might have noticed their matching tights despite never appearing together.) In the insane three way tag team match below, they would take on two teams that put Lucha Underground stars with established lucha veterans. Pentagon Jr teamed with his regular Mexican tag partner Joe Lider (a 5 time AAA tag champion) while Fenix recruited Myzteziz, better known to American fans as the original Sin Cara or Mistico.

With that many high-flying superstars in a match, it was bound to be an epic contest between six crazed competitors.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A young Rey Mysterio gets embroiled in the Octagon/Pentagon feud

Octagon is a long-time star of Mexican wrestling. Debuting in that gimmick in 1989, he became a huge star in a Mexico in love with martial arts. He rose to fame quickly, scoring movies and endorsements and main event spots. But AAA realized they needed an arch-nemesis for their character, so Pentagon was created.

Pentagon was the dark double to Octagon. Multiple talents would wrestle under the mask, almost always against Octagon or his allies. In this classic encounter circa 1994, Octagon teams with the still very young Rey Mysterio while Pentagon recruits an American (or is it Russian?) ally in KGB, actually American MMA/wrestling hybrid star Tom Howard, who would go on to co-found UPW and as trainer, start off the careers of John Cena and Samoa Joe. It's an interesting bout that shows off a lot of what is great about Mexican tag team wrestling.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Eddie Guerrero's first big American match

AAA has never been a stranger to trying new things. They made two attempts at major American pushes in the 1990s, once by teaming with WWE in 1996 & 1997, but before that they tried their hands at an independent pay-per-view. When Worlds Collide was an incredibly exciting pay-per-view, especially by the standards of 1994 professional wrestling, where excitement often wasn't a selling point.

The card was impressive with tons of future name stars on both sides of the border and only two known American commodities anywhere to be seen: 2 Cold Scorpio, the former WCW tag champion, and former WWE star Tito Santana, now past his prime. Rey Mysterio would also make his American debut on the card, but it was the semi-main event that stole the show.

Eddie (then Eddy) Guerrero was an unknown commodity in the United States in 1994, but was already a huge star in Mexico and a big name in Japan as Black Tiger II. He was at the peak of his success alongside his tag partner Art Barr, an incredibly talented American wrestler that never found any success in the States. Barr had convinced Guerrero to turn on his ally El Hijo Del Santo and after months of running roughshod with the rest of their unit, Los Gringos Loco, they were facing off with Santo and his new partner Octagon in a two-out-of-three-falls hair vs. mask match.

The results were nothing less than epic and a young Mike Tenay did his best to put it over in a twenty plus minute wrestling clinic. Sadly, Art Barr would pass away just over two weeks after the match. November 23rd will be the 21st anniversary of his death at the age of 28.

Monday, November 9, 2015

CM Punk vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero... in 2002?

The time period after the fall of WCW was a strange one. Tons of free agents were suddenly on the market and willing to take independent bookings if the money was right. Ian Rotten and his IWA Mid-South promotion were riding a wave of growing support for the indies during that time period and he used big name talent to strengthen that run.

Rey Mysterio (still unmasked) was one such talent who after recovering from knee surgery post-WCW seemed like he would never get  the call to WWE. Eddie Guerrero had his shot, even starting the invasion storyline, but his drug problems cost him his job. Cleaned up, he would fight to bring himself back through a truly epic run of great independent matches.

Between the two man was a young Midwestern kid that was taking the promotion by storm. CM Punk was young and still woefully inexperienced, but he had the gumption to go full blast with two living legends in the ring. The result was a great, unique match in the annals of wrestling history.

Friday, November 6, 2015

A weird thrown together match that might main event Wrestlemania

Before NXT, WWE had Florida Championship Wrestling. Shown on one local cable network in that state, it was famous for getting regularly streamed online to fans wanting to see the indie stars signed to its brand and the upcoming talent that might be the future of WWE. Tons of stars worked there, from Daniel Bryan to Seth Rollins to Big E to Alberto Del Rio.

But one three way match was particularly intriguing as three men that would grow to know each other well were thrown together in a battle despite having limited history with one another.

Seth Rollins was one of those men. Dean Ambrose was another. The third was Roman Leakee, who had recently dropped his first name, but would gain it back when he took the new last name Reigns on his WWE debut.

Before there was The Shield, check out three growing stars in action below.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Survivor Series just got a lot bigger... unfortunately

The build up to Survivor Series in the last two weeks has been lackluster, but with three week to go until the classic event returns, a major injury in Dublin changes the face of the company. Seth Rollins suffered a major injury in Ireland. A torn MCL, ACL & medial meniscus makes Triple H look like a chump for finishing a match with just a torn ACL, it does put Seth Rollins on the shelf for six to nine months.

Injuries have derailed Iowa's own World Heavyweight champion.
And as announced on, it means Seth Rollins cannot continue to defend the belt. A new champion will be determined by a tournament at Survivor Series, one that viewers should expect to see play out on television in the next several weeks.

It is a big hit for the company that seemed to be building towards a three way Shield battle at next year's big event. But with Randy Orton also injured and John Cena off television until at least December, it also leaves a huge opening for a new major star to be crowned by WWE.

The last time WWE ran a title tournament at the event was 1998 where two major stars were crowned for the future of WWE: Mankind and The Rock. At that event, a swerve lead to the crowning of The Rock as the Corporate Champion. With a smart strategy, WWE could do something just as amazing at this year's Survivor Series.

Can anyone say WWE champion Dean Ambrose?

The Evolution of Dean Ambrose & Luke Harper

While many current WWE stars cut their teeth in ROH, more and more talent seem to be coming from Gabe Sapolsky's EVOLVE and Dragon Gate USA brands. Gabe has an eye for some great young wrestlers, many of which were overlooked by ROH's very specific brand of super-match wrestling.

Brodie Lee, the future Luke Harper, actually did have a run with the company, but was mostly used as a thug with no personality. While he continued to be a monster (and a follower) to this day, ROH didn't really let him shine. And while his run in EVOLVE was brief, his brutal style certainly changed the game in a promotion built around pure wrestling without rule breaking.

Jon Moxley wasn't a stranger to weapons in his days before Dean Ambrose. He was known for getting bloody on the regular, even if he was a far stronger wrestling talent than most of his CZW brethren. When the two men met well before their WWE runs, the action was explosive.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Shield battles... Xavier Woods, Neville and Corey Graves(?)

NXT was a lot of fun even before it became a wholesale brand in its own right. Let's take a look back to the final days of Corey Graves as an in-ring competitor where he and his tag team partner Neville teamed with lovable good guy Xavier Woods to take on the return of The Shield to the developmental brand.

Of course, only in NXT could these three men go fifteen minutes with the hottest thing in wrestling at the time. Even now on the main roster, it seems unlikely any of the men would be allowed to be competitive against Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose or Roman Reigns.

Adrian Neville, Xavier Woods and Corey Graves vs The Shield by AndresGuilherme

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The time Daniel Bryan & Seth Rollins wrestled a 20 minute classic... in 2008.

While Daniel Bryan may be on the injured list, he certainly has a great history of amazing matches. Well before either he or Seth Rollins made it to the big league, they both worked for years in Ring of Honor as Bryan Danielson and Tyler Black. Back at Southern Navigation in 2008, they had an amazing encounter that arguably put Tyler on the map. Check it out below.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Del Rio Was Exactly What the WWE Needed

Even though the matches were predictable, HELL IN A CELL was one of the better events in the last few months. Starting off with the return of Del Rio was a great idea, although most of us who read online websites about wrestling knew that Cena was going to drop the title in order to take some time off. The strength of the pay-per-view led to one of the best RAW's in weeks, the tournament featuring the winners of HIAC was one of the better ideas I've seen from the WWE in a while. Right now the company has the best talent since the Attitude Era, but the writers, the creative team behind the feuds and follies, is just not good enough. For the first time since the days of Vince Russo, the talent is far ahead of  creative and its causing a lot of frustration in the fans.

Why is that old man with Alberto Del Rio? I mean he isn't an interesting character and the relationship between the two men just seems fake and forced. Why not let Del Rio shine on the basis of his talent? Why the stupid MexiAmericans gimmick?

Del Rio's in the prime of his life and his sudden reappearance shifted the road for both the US title and the World title. Suddenly there is a man on fire, ready to burn his way to the top. We don't need the stupid monologues from Zeb Colter to put this guy over. Del Rio is a force to be reckoned with and he should be used that way; as the unpredictable element that could at any time win big matches. Basically, Del Rio is best served by doing what Dean Ambrose should have been doing; tearing through the competition for the title. Unlike Ambrose, Del Rio's ambitions are clear and easy to understand. The man has a plan and fans want to see it unfold.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Looking back at Halloween Havoc's Chamber of Horrors

No match in the history of wrestling may have been as aptly named as the Chamber of Horrors. It was truly an abomination of a match, not because of the talent involved (outside El Gigante), but because it was a horrible gimmick with a goofy setup and the strange stipulation that it could only end with someone apparently dying in the electric chair.

Yes, really.

Yes, it's grainy, but even in full resolution, the thing was a mess.
The two four man units facing off had tons of upside. Gigante was used sparingly alongside his team of Sting and the Steiner Brothers, while the heel faction gave us hall of famers Cactus Jack, Abdullah the Butcher and Scott Hall teaming with future hall of famer Vader. (Seriously, how is he not a WWE Hall of Famer yet?) But with a terrible structure that obscured much of the action and the horrible "electric chair" in mid-ring, the thing was just a mess to start off 1991's Halloween Havoc.

Did the Young Bucks make the right decision by signing with ROH?

It was a big news story after being teased by the Young Bucks themselves: who would they sign a contract with at this point in their careers? The answer was Ring of Honor. While the deal in place allows them to continue their work with ROH's partner NJPW and the Bucks' home promotion PWG, Ring of Honor seems like a strange choice for the duo.

Image credit:
Ring of Honor has had two other high profile signings in the last few months. They signed Moose after rumors that the rising star might be WWE bound. Since that time, he's fought on the early half of every card in negligible matches that do nothing for a star that was massively over entering 2015. The second signing was of Roderick Strong, a man that while often looked at as bland personality-wise can go as well as anyone in the ring. His signing has embroiled him in a feud with Jay Lethal, the perennial booking favorite of ROH's Hunter Johnson.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Top 10 stars of WWE, October edition

After Night of Champions I debuted the site's first Top 10 list. Now as Hell in a Cell enters the rear view, we move on to look at where the standings lie in its wake. Welcome to the second edition of the WWE Top 10 as we look where the stars of the roster sit this month. Numbers following names are ranks from last month.
Paige went even more goth in a Halloween themed
WWE shoot. Image credit:

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Looking back at Alberto's amazing Lucha Underground run

Alberto Del Rio just returned to WWE, but he had a great run at the beginning of the year as part of Lucha Underground. A feud with Texano started things out well for Alberto El Patron, but it was his battles with Johnny Mundo (the former John Morrison) that really allowed him to shine. They blew the roof off the Temple during Ultima Lucha, but their previous match was equally compelling as they fought a brutal battle that ended in an amazing wrestling moment.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Alberto Del Rio is back!

The big story going into Hell in a Cell last night was the mystery of who would be John Cena's open challenge opponent on the card. Dozens of names were put forward, but WWE made the decision not to make fans wait long as John kicked off the pay-per-view.

The man that answered pretty much proved a surprise to everyone.

Image credit:
Alberto Del Rio left WWE under less than favorable conditions, fired after punching a backstage worker after the worker allegedly made a racist joke. WWE showed zero tolerance and released him just weeks short of his contract expiration. Suddenly the four time World champion was gone from the promotion that made him a huge star.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Two returns in the making for Chikara

I really really do not talk about Chikara enough on this blog, but that is mostly because I have yet to watch any of their events since last year’s series finale. I have started to pick up a couple from their new Chikaratopia set-up and will hopefully get some reviews up in the next few weeks.

But I still follow their storylines and as the company heads towards a weekend in the Midwest and this year’s series finale, two returns seem to be impending for the company.

Deucalion killed many between his debut and Tomorrow Never Dies. His first victim was The Batiri’s Kobald, as the chokebreaker broke the toilet demon. But his biggest kill was almost certainly the Estonian ThunderFrog, the Mjolnir-wielding frog powerhouse of Chikara. (And if that doesn’t sound awesome to you, learn to have more fun.)

The Estonian FarmerFrog from his Twitter profile. 

Tomorrow Never Dies ended with the seeming rebirth of the Thunderfrog on a Minnesota farm. Since that time, a very similar in appearance talent named the Estonian FarmerFrog has worked the local Minnesota independents. Now he will make his Chikara debut during their first ever stop in Minnesota. With the ThunderFrog's hammer still being an important part of Chikara storytelling, it remains to be seen if he will take his legacy back and become the ThunderFrog once more.

Along with the ThunderFrog’s return, The Batiri have been down a man for over a year. The Batiri teamed with Ultramantis Black over a promise to resurrect the fallen demon. And with Ultramantis’s in-ring career at an end, he needed a fourth member to enter his Atomicos match against the Wrecking Crew.

Well it seems clear from this video that the toilet demon may very well make his return as the mysterious fourth member of Ultramantis Black’s Atomicos unit. This will mark a pointed return for the impressive-but-tiny talent. Much like the Thunderfrog, he had become a popular competitor just before his demise and his return from whatever Heck the Batiri spawned from should offer tons of excitement to the Chikara faithful.

I have said it before and will say it again. Nothing quite like Chikara exists anywhere in the world.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Alexa Bliss is ready to replace the Four Horsewomen

With Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks now main roster regulars, NXT’s divas roster was left depleted in the aftermath of Takeover: Respect. But with the advent of Asuka at the same show and the continued presence of Dana Brooke and Emma, Bayley wasn’t without contenders.

But instead of going with any of those three women, NXT is pushing Alexa Bliss. Two weeks into her feud with Bayley, she seems ready to take over as the top mean girl of NXT.

Alexa Bliss is perfectly bad. Image credit:
Alexa wrestled a solid match with Peyton Royce on this week's NXT. Peyton got in far more offense than I think I’ve seen before, but Alexa Bliss looked like a million bucks as she did everything she needed to pick up the win over Royce. Blake and Murphy surprisingly remained only as ringside spectators, though one suspects they will become far more important once she regularly starts wrestling Bayley.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The top 10 wrestlers of 1985

Normally today's feature would cover the top stars of one of the great modern day promotions in the field, but today is a very special day where a time traveler from 1985 came to 2015 and helped the Cubs win the World Series. (Or something like that.) So while I'm waiting for Max Headroom-like representations of Reagan and Gorbachev to appear, it seemed apt to travel back to his time and look at the top wrestlers of the era where Rock N Wrestling first brought wrestling to a national level.

Their ending might have been tragic, but they were an amazing
team for many years.
  1. The British Bulldogs: While not yet the WWE tag champs, the Bulldogs were a hugely over act due to their amazing in-ring prowess. they would be embroiled ina long term feud with the Dream Team for the next year.
  2. Junkyard Dog: While not a title holder often, JYD almost always held strong positions on the card, often serving as the man to beat to get a shot at the WWF title. He was at the peak of his career in 1985, a bonafide star sadly held back from his full potential due to the racist attitudes still prevalent at that time in wrestling.
  3. Tito Santana: Tito is the most accomplished wrestler there is very little to say about. He held the Intercontinental title for much of the year, but continued to mostly be a buy the numbers champion.
  4. “Macho Man” Randy Savage: New to the WWF, Randy was already clearly a future star. He immediately took key positions on the card and his star power dwarfed the likes of Santana.
  5. Magnum T.A.: His career wouldn't last much longer, but Magnum was easily the second biggest star in the NWA by 1985. A consistent contender for the US title, it would have only been a matter of time before he made a run at the championship, but tragedy ended his career early.
  6. The Rock N Roll Express: What else can be said about the Rock N Roll Express other than they're arguably the most innovative tag team of the 1980s. They were hugely over and while their famous battles with the Midnight Express were on hold in 85, they were still wildly successful in the NWA. 
  7. Ric Flair: I'm sure some Southern wrestling fans will argue that Flair should be higher on this list. But in 1985, the NWA didn't have the penetration into pop culture WWF. While Flair was a huge star in every way, it would be a few years still before his home turf would start to compete.
  8. Wendi Richter: She's almost a footnote to wrestling today, but her alliance with Cyndi Lauper in 1985 was arguably more important than even Hogan's rise in making WWF culturally significant. Her alliance started the Rock N Wrestling era, even if she wouldn't stick around long after her amazing year as Women's Champion.
  9. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper: He was the baddest man in WWF. While he could never hit #1 on this list, in 1985, Roddy was responsible for making stars. He main evented Wrestlemania earlier in the year and would move on to feud with the champion for nearly a year, even taking the enmity to children's television the next year.
  10. Hulk Hogan: 1985 was the year that Hulk Hogan became HULK HOGAN. He teamed with international star Mr. T at Wrestlemania and instantly became a media darling. His charisma drew in fans and his shirt ripping became vogue among even non-wrestling fans. Feuds with Paul Orndorff and Roddy Piper turned Hogan into a superstar, even if he was never able to get a clean pinfall on Piper in '85 or ever again. 
Piper and Hogan were a perfect match as enemies.
There you have it, the Top 10 wrestlers of 1985. Am I right? Wrong? Downright crazy? Let me know in the comments section or on social media!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Tim Donst in documentary form

At the beginning of the year, it seemed for awhile that independent wrestler Tim Donst might be at the end of his career. With cancer issues, he was facing a far greater battle than just a match.

The Chikara alum survived his fight though and made his return to wrestling over the summer. He also released a documentary about his experience that I think everyone should watch.

His current home promotion of Absolute Intense Wrestling put a lot of effort into helping the video become possible. Donst continues to work at AIW as well as CZW and various other indies. Follow him on Twitter for more or head over to Smartmark Video and check him out in tons of great shows.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Five star wrestling with Manami Toyota and Aja Kong

I close out a week focused on great women wrestling with a classic five star match from All Japan Women's Wrestling between the always amazing Manami Toyota and the monstrous Aja Kong, the woman that inspired much of Awesome Kong's style. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Is Nia Jax the second coming of Kharma?

Kharma was a failed experiment by WWE, mostly due to a lot of unwanted media attention in the aftermath of her failed pregnancy. But most fans agree that Awesome Kong could have been great in the WWE Divas division, maybe even giving the current "Divas Revolution" a jumpstart years ahead of time. But it wasn't to be.

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Last night on NXT, Nia Jax made her in ring debut in a brutal takedown of Shimmer regular Evie. It was a great match with the much smaller and more seasoned Evie selling like a million bucks for the massive new Samoan star. In all the right ways, Nia reminded long time viewers of the dominance of Awesome Kong in the early days of the TNA Knockouts. She looked like a monster, which was a smart way to book her first onscreen match.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The NXT Top 10

The Wednesday Top 10 is back and this time we check in on the aftermath of NXT Takeover: Respect with a list of ten best wrestlers or tag teams in NXT. In the aftermath of the Dusty Classic, the women's title match main event and the continued dominance of Apollo Crews, there's a lot to talk about. But who will take number one? Better start reading to find out!

The Vaudevillians. Image credit:

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Act Yasukawa has returned to wrestling... and is coming to America

A few years back, I was regularly watching joshi (Japanese female wrestling) on dailymotion. Groups like Ice Ribbon and STARDOM were solid and I loved the events Kana (now Asuka) would run on her own. But while watching those events, I became a huge fan of a few different Japanese wrestlers. One of those women was STARDOM's Act Yasukawa. She's got tons of presence and even beats Asuka in the awesome entrance attire award.

Unfortunately, she was involved in an awful event earlier this year when another STARDOM wrestler Yoshiko threw away their regularly scheduled match by straight up shooting on her with several stiff shots. Before Act had a chance to react, she had taken several stiff shots from a woman that was supposed to protect her body in the ring. She was left with broken ribs and some horrible damage to her face, while Yoshiko was banned from competing in STARDOM. Many folks questioned whether Act Yasukawa would ever return to wrestling, but she did so at the end of September for a STARDOM event.