Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Kevin Owens: #9 in the Top Wrestlers of 2016

The first repeat appearance from last year's Top 10 list dropped seven spots from his #2 finish in 2015. But while Kevin Owens didn't have the astronomical rise in 2016 that he had in 2015, he has been one of the most consistent wrestlers on the WWE and later Raw roster in the last year.

Image credit:
From his dominating run as Intercontinental champion at the beginning of the year to his renewed feud with Sami Zayn to his new BFF relationship with Chris Jericho and his rise to WWE Universal champion, the former Kevin Steen has put on solid matches week in and week out on television and on pay-per-view.

In my opinion however, many of his accomplishments have been mired by the terrible writing typical of Raw. Since the brand split, Smackdown simply became a stronger brand and it takes a ton of star power to overcome the mess that is that broadcast.

But Kevin Owens has always shown an ability to stand out from the pack. He did it in Ring of Honor, to the point the company had no choice but to rehire him and give him the championship. He did it in NXT where he immediately became the top star, albeit in a short run. And he did it on Raw in 2015, taking his first onscreen win against John Cena.

It's hard to separate Owens' championship success from his
partnership with Chris Jericho. Image credit:
Unfortunately, his rise to WWE Universal champion also came with the typical chickenshit heel exploits it seems Raw's writing team requires for all their heel main eventers. While he and his partner in crime Jericho have done their best with the material, it is hard to argue the staleness of the material hurt Kevin Owens's ranking this year. While last year he received multiple first place votes, this year his highest ranking by any contributor was fifth place. Only a consistent showing in the middle of the Top Ten on multiple lists brought him to the Top 10 at all, and then just barely. He didn't even make my personal Top 25, coming in at the 28th spot right behind Xavier Woods.

But the one thing wrestling fans can be sure of is that Kevin Owens will continue to try and make every match he wrestles compelling. Here's hoping in 2017 he's given a lot more to work with than the same stale finishes.

Tomorrow NXT gets their first star on the list, a talent that is anything but a developmental star.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Johnny Mundo: #10 Wrestler of 2016

Last year, I was allowed to write some great pieces on two of my Lucha Underground favorites, Prince Puma and Pentagon Jr. (now Pentagon Dark.) This year, only one Lucha Underground performer made the Top 10, but he's a talent familiar to many fans and one that truly did have his best year in wrestling in 2016.

Image credit: Lucha Underground.
You might know him as Johnny Nitro or John Morrison, but to me he's definitely Johnny Mundo.

While not all of his 2016 appearances on Lucha Underground television were actually filmed in 2016, the calendar year cannot be looked at as anything other than impressive for the Mayor of Slamtown. He opened the year with a win over Dragon Azteca, Prince Puma and Rey Mysterio for the Lucha Underground Trios title. Though he lost them at Ultima Lucha Dos, he went on to beat Sexy Star for the Gift of the Gods title, again for the Lucha Underground title (which she won only a week before during Aztec Warfare III) and a final time to retain her title. He didn't manage any of those wins without sly tactics, but Mundo is a world class heel by any measurable rights.

His success cannot be pointed out without also talking about his Trios tag partners Jack Evans, the long time indie star that's years in Mexico are finally paying off with some great work on American television, and PJ Black, the former Justin Gabriel and now "Darewolf", another talent showing he was so much more talented than WWE ever let him give fans. Perhaps his most amazing ally is Taya, the Canadian wrestler turned veteran luchadora. She's been a true revelation in the last two seasons of Lucha Underground, almost as much as Mundo's career renaissance.

Mundo's only issues in Lucha Underground now is a lack of depth remaining in his opponents. He's wrestled almost every tecnico in the company and a decent number of the rudos as well. But Lucha Underground is always about surprises and I suspect he'll bring a few more in 2017.

Tomorrow we continue the list with the first repeat talent from last year's list, a man that continued an impressive run towards the top of his promotion in 2016.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The 2016 End of the Year Honorable Mentions List

For the next two weeks, The Wrestling Weekday will look at some of the best wrestlers in the world, the men and women that shaped the industry in 2016.

Tomorrow, the list actually starts to get into wrestlers that earned multiple votes before the Top 10 list starts full speed ahead on Tuesday. All remaining vote getters, the ones that fell short of the Top 10 but received votes from multiple sources, will be revealed next week.

But for now: on with the first list of Honorable Mentions, presented in point order from lowest to highest.

Image credit:

Sami Zayn did not have a spectacular 2016 clearly as he received only a single 25th point vote. He stands alongside James Ellsworth, an ignominious spot if ever there was one, and Hallowicked, a talent I might have ranked much higher if I was anywhere near to caught up with Chikara in 2016.

I expected The Miz to get a bit more support because of his great work on Smackdown Live in the second half of 2016. He just missed my list and perhaps failed to make a few others as well. Similarly, only I was impressed enough by Baron Corbin's work in 2016. Admittedly he only had a few great weeks in NXT at the beginning of the year and his impressive work since Survivor Series with a huge lull in the middle, but he is decidedly a talent that grew exponentially in the year. He's easily one of the best WWE developmental talents without an indie background ever.

I also was a bit surprised that I was the only person to rank the Cruiserweight Classic winner TJ Perkins at all and that he came in behind Randy Orton in points total. NJPW's Katsuyori Shibata and TNA's Lashley both came ahead of him on my list though, as both showed amazing growth in ring and, in Lashley's case, character-wise in the year.

Andy Sheets gave the only votes for Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa, two talents that just barely missed my list. He also gave a vote to Tomohiro Ishii, a man that fell out of the NEVER division in NJPW early in the year but had a few great showings for ROH as their Television champion.

Sami Callihan (or Jeremiah Crane for certain fans) did amazing work on the indies and in Lucha Underground this year, showing why WWE seriously missed the boat with Solomon Crowe. I can see him entering a few more folks radar in 2017.

A bunch of tag team wrestlers got single votes as well. Nick Jackson, Matt JacksonJason Jordan and Chad Gable only received votes from yours truly, while John Morgan Neal gave Heath Slater and Rhyno their only props. Other talents that made their most significant strides as part of a tag team in 2016 also fell in this place, such as Bray Wyatt or Brother Nero, Jeff Hardy.

I thought Rich Swann deserved a place on the list here as well, as he's the man that seems to have lit a fire under the Cruiserweight division as 205 Live kicks off. Dalton Castle and Pentagon Dark (#10 in last year's poll) get similar rankings, I expect for similarly great character work backed by strong in will skills.

Much like Sami Callihan, I felt Cody Rhodes deserved a place on this list. He's electrified audiences in huge ways since his time as Stardust ended and he took to basically every non-WWE wrestling company. He may have lost his last name (a real poor move by WWE in my opinion), but he's showed why he deserved a higher spot on the card than he ever received on the WWE stage.

Kofi Kingston and Big E both made last year's list (at #8 and #5 respectively), but only got one vote this year. Ricochet (a.k.a. Prince Puma) fell similarly, dropping to only receiving a single vote after ranking at #7 last year. Just ahead of them was the final member of The New Day, Xavier Woods, who fell just short of the 2015 list but through increased in ring presence really cemented himself as a strong third member of The New Day in 2016.

Image credit: Lucha Underground.
We close out today's list with a few of the folks that ranked in several folks' Top 10 positions. Lucha Underground's Cage and NJPW's Kushida and Kazuchika Okada all made Andy Sheets' list in the #8, #7, and #6 spots respectively. Joe Crowe named Goldberg as his sixth best wrestler, an impressive feat for a man with two minutes of ring time in 2016. But they were an impressive two minutes, we all must admit. I ranked Finn Balor at #6, higher than I expected most people to do so, but I was shocked to see him make no one else's list. The first WWE Universal Champion dominated NXT in the first half of the year and impressed on Raw for the month he was on television. It still amazes me he didn't get props from anyone other than yours truly. Finally, Jeff Yelton gave a fifth place vote to ROH's Adam Cole, saying “The two-time ROH World Champ has come from being a bland good guy to a great heel. And he can go in the ring. I keep wondering when WWE is gonna call.”

With this list I have revealed all but twenty names that received votes in the 2016 Top 10 Countdown. The ten final Honorable Mentions will be revealed next week, but for now, stay tuned for tomorrow and the reveal of the #10 wrestler in the world today, despite almost all of their acclaim coming from one tiny venue in Southern California.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Reminder: Get your votes in for the year end Top 10!

Next week, we kick off the year end Top 10 countdown of the best wrestlers in the world! Remember to get in your votes between now and the extended final date of December 25, 2016 to help determine who best deserves the top spot as wrestler of the year.

Email your list of up to 25 wrestlers, ranked from 1 to 25 (tag teams must be listed as individuals) and leave them in the comments below or email them to wwfmegs{at}yahoo{dot}com.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Lucha Underground Top 10

Lucha Underground has been a favorite of mine for years now, but I have never featured it in a Top 10 until today. Why? Because the weekly storytelling of the show makes it a bit harder to work out a list of the ten stars that consistently should rank as the highest in my viewpoints. But I want to share my picks here as fans continue to turn in their votes for the top wrestlers of the year. So without any more ado, let's go straight into the top ten wrestlers of Lucha Underground!
Image credit: Lucha Underground.

  1. Mil Muertes: The man of a thousand deaths is a dominant force still in Lucha Underground, but he still seems to be missing a lot of the drive he possessed in the first two seasons. Already out of the latest tournament, he may be on a collision course with the returning Prince Puma soon.
  2. Drago, Fenix and Aerostar: Though the reigning Trios champions are still dominant in their division, the Trios titles seem to have received a demotion this year. With Kobra Moon aligning forces against Drago, that could change. We may be in store for a war between the Snake Tribe and the Trios champions for several weeks to come. 
  3. Pentagon Dark: Another man left rudderless (and off television) after his attack on Dragon Azteca and Black Lotus last season bit him in the rear this one. With two broken arms he's likely to miss the next ten episodes or so, which could jeopardize any more appearances on this list for some time.
  4. The Mack: I'm still not sure why he's never really been given a driven storyline, but even as the friend of Sexy Star he's shined. He seems poised to become a stronger player in the company as Season Three continues, but he remains a match away from really accomplishing anything of importance.
  5. Cage: The best of five series with Texano seems to move at a glacial pace, but Cage still seems to be the dominant force of the two hosses. He seems poised to have a bigger storyline going ahead on the show, especially if the demonic possession hinted at earlier in the season comes to be.
  6. Black Lotus Triad: Doku, Yurei and Hitokiri backed up Black Lotus and allowed for a great set of matches with Pentagon Dark that left him broken. With Black Lotus herself still limited in the ring, this is the perfect way to continue her progression on television.
  7. Matanza Cueto: He may have lost the Lucha Underground title, but he's still an absolute monster. With his brother losing control of him, he may become more terrifying without the title than he was for his full season with it. 
  8. Rey Mysterio: The company treats him like their biggest star and everyone of his matches has been high profile. They have smartly kept him away from the title picture, but now he seems on a collision course with Matanza that could leave both men broken.
  9. Sexy Star: She won Ultima Lucha to become the Lucha Underground championship only to have it taken away from her only days later by the Worldwide Underground. But Sexy is still poised to be a top star in the company, even if her time with Lucha Underground might be coming to an end sooner rather than later, much as her time in AAA has.
  10. Johnny Mundo: Though he might not be where he is without the Worldwide Underground backing him, Mundo has put on some of the best matches of his career in Lucha Underground. He's proven himself to be a top star and here's hoping he continues to shine as the show continues through into the second half of the current season. 

Image credit: Lucha Underground.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Looking back: The top 10 wrestlers of 2015

With votes now open for the Top 10 wrestlers of 2016, I thought it would be convenient to look back at the ten wrestlers that topped the list in 2015. It was an interesting list, featuring two Lucha Underground standouts, four WWE midcarders, an NXT wrestler and a recent WWE graduate who barely accomplished anything on the main roster that year. Yet, I can think of few lists as representative of the great talent of 2015 as this one. So without more ado, here's the list of some great talent. Click on each name to read their full entry.

  1. Pentagon Jr.: I ranked him much higher, but Pentagon Jr. deserved to be near the top of any list he was on for his work in Lucha Underground.
  2. Cesaro: Few talents are as consistent as the Swiss Superman.
  3. Kofi Kingston: The New Day rose to fame in 2015, but even I was a bit surprised by Kofi's high placing. I actually personally placed him below Xavier Woods, who just barely missed the list. 
  4. Prince Puma: Rather as Puma or Ricochet, he put on some great matches in 2016 in both Lucha Underground and New Japan Pro Wrestling.
  5. John Cena: It's not that often that an IWC site would rank Cena so high, but few people could argue how good Cena was during his United States title reign.
  6. Big E: No one emerged with as much flair as part of The New Day as Big E. He showed why he deserves a main event push sooner rather than later last year. Hopefully 2017 is the year of Big E..
  7. Seth Rollins: Iowa's own Seth Rollins dominated the main event picture of WWE and put on some great matches to boot. 
  8. Bayley: Fact: There was no greater babyface in wrestling in 2015 than Bayley. 
  9. Kevin Owens: He was already an indie superstar, but Owens took NXT then WWE by storm in 2015. 
  10. Sasha Banks: I don't think anyone put on as many great matches in 2015 as Sasha. Sadly her 2016 might not have been quite as bright, but she's still easily one of the most talented wrestlers in the world today.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

You decide... time to vote in the Wrestling Weekday's Top 10 wrestlers of 2016!

Last year, The Wrestling Weekday debuted its inaugural edition of the year end Top 10, a master list of the greatest wrestlers of 2015. This year, it returns in bigger and better fashion as we again team up with the fine folks at ESO-PRO: The Pro Wrestling Podcast to bring you the Top 10 Wrestlers of 2016.

The process is simple. All you have to do to vote is to send me your list of top wrestlers anywhere in the world. Your list can be as short as one or as long as 25, 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 fan choices as well as 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.

In order to have the proper time to tabulate fan input, I ask that all votes be received by Sunday, December 25.

The Top 10 list will kick off on December 26 and run for two weeks as we cover all the great talent that made 2016 another great year in wrestling.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Smackdown Top 10

It has been far too long since The Wrestling Weekday last ran down the top ten stars of any promotion. But with WWE split into three distinctive brands, it seems apt to focus on the Smackdown Live brand in the aftermath of Sunday's TLC pay-per-view. So let's take a look at the ten big winners for the brand coming out of the show.

Just a reminder about the numbers at the end of each entry. The first number is the wrestler's rank from the last list. The second is the number of months they have been ranked on the list.

Image credit: 
  1. American Alpha: Jason Jordan and Chad Gable have become the kings of the pre-show for WWE in recent months, but on television, they continue to score some great looking wins. Probably the crispest team on the roster, both men are great all arounders with huge futures as a team or in singles competition. They've clearly been kept away from the tag titles for the last several months, but one should strongly suspect a huge push for the team heading into Wrestlemania season. (6/4)
  2. Baron Corbin: Corbin needs better quality of foes if he is ever going to hope to succeed on WWE's main roster. But he faces a major dilemma in Smackdown's complete lack of depth on the midcard level. His feud with Kalisto now done (hopefully), he can perhaps move on to the former tag champions, as Heath Slater and his old foe Rhyno both seem like great foes for him in the months ahead. (U/1)
  3. Dean Ambrose: I'm not sure if anyone came out of TLC looking as bad as Ambrose. He put up a valiant effort, almost got the win, but still came up short against AJ, this time because of the betrayal of a man that he helped bring into the company. A feud with Ellsworth seems nonsensical, but he might be able to do something interesting if someone like Dolph Ziggler would align with Ellsworth against him. (2/11)
  4. Dolph Ziggler: Sure, he didn't regain the Intercontinental title. But Dolph looks strongly poised to move into a higher position yet on the card. He could easily be the next opponent for AJ Styles or he could continue his short feud with Ambrose from earlier in the year. But it seems clear he's a key player in the future of Smackdown Live. (10/2)
  5. WWE Super Card: The promotions for the game were integrated right into the programming. The game often seemed ignored in the push of the 2k series of games, but the free mobile game is literally one of the most addictive things ever and a blast to play. Good for WWE and company for making the game feel like a true part of the WWE Universe. (U/1)
  6. James Ellsworth: I am still not sure how a chinless jobber has become pivotal to Smackdown storylines yet here we are. He's played a huge role on TV in recent weeks and his apparent heel turn at TLC poises him to be a huge part of Dean Ambrose's continuing saga. (U/1)
  7. Alexa Bliss: If there's one talent that has came into her own best on the main roster since their recent NXT days, it is Alexa Bliss. While never dominant in the NXT women's division, she has been a spitfire in her quest for the Smackdown Women's Title. She picked up the title in a tables match, a convenient stipulation often used for heels to steal a title from a face. Her feud with Becky seems to be far from over, but whether she can maintain the title will show where she stands in the future firmament of Smackdown Live. (10/2)
  8. The Wyatt Family: I have absolutely no idea where WWE is going with Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton as a unit, but having the evil influence of Wyatt finally sway a foe does amazing things to cement his importance to the brand. Randy Orton continues to put on some of the best matches of his career while also having a unique direction of his own right now. And while Luke Harper didn't get to be a part of the tag champions, he still is the hossiest hoss in WWE. (U/1)
  9. The Miz: He put on a hell of a match with Dolph Ziggler, but it might be his continued battle with Daniel Bryan on Talking Smack that might make him one of the true icons in the future of wrestling. Much like Corbin, he's left with little competition with Ziggler out of the way, but he seems poised to have a big Wrestlemania moment as a match between him and Daniel Bryan looks incredibly likely. (U/1)
  10. AJ Styles: Eleven months ago, he was in the semi-main event at the Tokyo Dome in New Japan. Now he seems like the most dominant star in WWE today. "The Champ That Runs the Camp" seems almost unbeatable on the WWE roster. So unbeatable that he seems destined for a huge match at Royal Rumble or Wrestlemania. Sure, John Cena could return to feud with him before either event, but with both Undertaker and Shawn Michaels looming in the rumors, AJ Styles could be on his way to his biggest match ever. (U/1)
Image credit: NJPW.
Agree with my list? Disagree? Let me know who your choices would be in the comments section below or on social media. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

It's about time for another random appearance of this guy in WWE

For someone who had a WWE career that lasted only a few months and was most famous for eating worms, Marty Wright has had impressive longevity with his creation that brought him into the biggest wrestling company in the world. He has reappeared numerous times for the company since he left, and seems poised to become a Halloween tradition for the company if they choose to make him so.

Image credit:
While I am always more a fan of scientific wrestling than anything else, I cannot pretend there isn't a place in any company for characters like The Boogeyman. His brand of weird brings a levity to any promotion, even if I can only watch a guy eat so many worms.

With Raw following on Halloween night this year, what do you think the chances of a Boogeyman return will be?

Monday, October 17, 2016

The New Day must wrestle this team!

As the New Day gets close to breaking the record and becoming the longest reigning tag team in WWE history, they have toppled pretty much everyone they can topple. The Club, The Dudleys, The Prime Time Players, The Usos, The Wyatts, etc., etc. No one has been able to beat the Power of Positivity. But if they truly want to be the greatest tag team in WWE history, they have one essential pair they must conquer to make it happen.

Who are these mystery men? I'd think it would be blatantly obvious.

Image credit: The Hannibal TV on Youtube.
Their names are Ax and Smash, but most folks just know them as Demolition. Right now, they are the longest reigning tag team in WWE history. And although their heyday was 24 years ago and they are now 68 and 57, both men still make in-ring appearances in make-up, even if they aren't quite the muscled brutes of yesteryear. A one night appearance by both men, preferably on the Raw before The New Day reach their historic title reign in early December, would be a perfect way to culminate The New Day's position as the preeminent tag team of the modern era.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

I don't get the hatred of David Otunga

Look, we all know the ideal Smackdown Live! announce team would be Mauro Ranallo and Corey Graves. We all hoped for it. It didn't happen however. Instead JBL made the move, and the recent replacement for Jerry "The King" Lawler became a full time member of the announce team.

But while the show has brought some great storytelling back to WWE television, I hear way too much about David Otunga and how terrible he is. Look, we can all agree Otunga isn't exactly the world's number one announcers. But I see no problem with him. He's perfectly capable of telling the story in the ring. He creates a good counterpoint to Ranallo's over-enthusiasm and JBL's constant push for the heels.

Sure, he will never be the perfect member of any announce team, but neither is he the abomination the internet seems to think he is. Let's give the man a break and focus on the real problems WWE needs to fix: the lack of midcard depth on Smackdown or Raw's inability to get any new stars not named Kevin Owens over.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Tommy's Take on WWE No Mercy 2016

Hey all, I have returned nearly a month after my first post.

My time management sucks.

For what it's worth, my thoughts on Raw's Clash of the Champions, in a nutshell? Smackdown blew them away.

Now we're on to the second Smackdown PPV, No Mercy. Again, this is not a comprehensive recap. For that, there are better writers to seek out. These are just my thoughts on the show.

Kickoff Match: American Alpha & The Hype Bros. beat The Ascension & The Vaudevillains.
WWE World Title Triple Threat Match: AJ Styles (c) retained against John Cena and Dean Ambrose by pinning Cena.
Nikki Bella pinned Carmella.
Smackdown Tag Team Champions Heath Slater & Rhyno stopped The Usos.
Baron Corbin toppled Jack Swagger.
Title vs Career Match: Dolph Ziggler pinned The Miz (w/Maryse) to become the Intercontinental Champion.
Naomi beat Alexa Bliss.
Bray Wyatt pinned Randy Orton.

 My thoughts:

  • Miz and Ziggler steal the show...again. Dolph Ziggler versus The Miz wasn't just a great match, it had emotions. The fans bought into Ziggler's struggle and The Miz needing to be taken down a peg. This was a better match than Backlash, if only because Ziggler was selling both the desperation and his leg (more consistently than last month, anyway). The key, of course, is what happens next. Fans care about Ziggler again, and Miz is still on fire...but aside from the mandatory rematch, what happens to capitalize on this? There's not a lot of heel depth for Ziggler to feud with (aside from revisiting his feud with Baron Corbin, which nobody wants). Maybe Luke Harper or Bray Wyatt, intertwining Ziggler with Orton?
  • Welcome back. It takes a lot to really get me to mark out these days, and I had become convinced that Wyatt versus Orton was going to end with Orton punting Bray Wyatt into the WWE history books. Instead, we got the return of Luke Harper, and it gives me (foolish) hope for the future of The Wyatt Family. Orton and Bray had a good match, but the crowd was dead and even I never felt like Orton was ever in any real danger until Harper showed up. That's what two and a half years of booking Bray as a punching bag for the top stars will do to "The New Face of Fear". I have seen calls clamoring (again) for a Harper vs Wyatt feud, but let's be honest: It will be a long time before that feud will ever do either man any favors. Let them run roughshod. Heck, at this point I would be happy with Harper and Wyatt as tag team champions.
  • Poor Ms. Bliss. I felt, going into this show, that Alexa Bliss was in no way a threat to Becky Lynch, and that Lynch was probably just treading water until Eva Marie returns. I like Bliss, as she's very athletic, has a great look and is promising on the microphone (it just seems like her comfort level isn't quite there yet)...and so Lynch's mysterious injury seemed like a perfect opportunity to begin building her as a proper threat. I got nervous when she came out and cut her promo, because that seemed like the perfect set up for the arrogant heel to get squashed (I was almost expecting an Asuka debut). Instead we got Naomi. What followed was a sloppy match that seemed like it was telling a story (Alexa Bliss working the arm in response to Becky's own Dis-Arm-Her)...and Naomi squeezing out a lucky win. If you want to make Alexa seem like a legitimate threat to the title, that wasn't the way to do it. Instead she's been repeatedly overshadowed by Eva Marie and Carmella, the former of whom is a notoriously bad in ring worker and the latter of whom hasn't been able to draw a crowd reaction on the main roster as a face or a heel. Hopefully they bail Bliss out before she become another NXT also-ran (like most of the Kickoff show's Superstars).
  • The pacing of the show. I enjoyed the show. I even understand putting the World Title match on in the beginning because of the Presidential debate. That said, the pacing was just a little weird, especially when the pacing peaked with the Intercontinental Title Match and the last two matches were largely performed in front of dead crowds...and this wasn't even a Raw/WrestleMania/Summerslam effect where the fans had been sitting through a show that was just waaaaay too long. Obviously, it doesn't help when someone as popular as Becky is taken off the show at the last minute, but Miz hasn't wrestled in front of a dead crowd in years, and he and Ziggler stole the show last month, so they should have been the obvious choice to end the show if the World Title Match was going on first.
  • Faces and heels are officially dead. Jim Ross said on his blog today that he didn't understand AJ Style being booked to cheat when he was clearly the crowd favorite. Unfortunately, Jim Ross and I both need to come to grips with the fact that faces and heels are dead. There are several examples of this in WWE right now, but when The Miz and Dolph Ziggler are getting split "Let's go, Ziggler!" "Let's go, Miz!" chants, it is time to stop worrying about who is getting booed and who is getting cheered once and for all, and just focus on who elicits a crowd reaction and who doesn't. ESPECIALLY when a certain segment of the audience loves to voraciously boo babyfaces until they turn heel...then cheer them to the point that they turn them back into which point they are booed again. Stop worrying about it. That goes to you, me, Jim Ross and WWE Creative. The wrestling audience has morphed into a whole other beast, for better or for worse.
  • Stop being too smart for your own good, WWE. WWE matches have been having lots of creative spots and finishes these days...and it's not necessarily a good thing. Some things (like Luke Harper appearing in the ring, but not actually touching Orton, so as to not cause a DQ) aren't bad. Other things (like Cesaro and Sheamus fighting to a draw in a Best of Seven Series, or AJ Styles tapping out to two men, and so the match carries on as if nothing had happened) are pretty silly at best, or make you feel like you wasted your time at worse. This is made doubly bad when it seems like cutesy finishes like these are popping up on every major show now. Possibly the only thing that annoys me more at this point are all the false finishes that pop up in just about every match, especially all the finisher kickouts. Heck, the biggest highlight I've seen on regular TV in months was Ambrose pinning Cena with a sunset flip, because it was a non-finisher pinfall, which made non-finisher/interference/weapon pinfalls look possible again.
Thanks for reading, and I'll try to manage my time better to post new thoughts sooner.

The ballad of Shane Hollister: SCW 'Wicked Ways' in review

Image credit: Jennifer PV Logsdon.
I could talk about a lot of things in relationship to SCW's Wicked Ways event on Saturday night. Marek Brave went full heel and debuted his fashionista gimmick in Scott County Wrestling. Angelus Layne made her debut for the promotion to hand Violet Parker her first loss. Adrian Alexander grew a beard and changed his name to Xander Killen. The tag division securely set a three way feud for the months ahead. Overall, it was a very good show with a bunch of solid matches.

But the real story was the loss to the wrestling world of one Shane Hollister. Hollister announced the event would be his retirement just a few days beforehand, though he made no secret that his days in wrestling were numbered. With a significant other and children in his life, he was leaving wrestling behind to be a provider and a father. It's a decision you have to respect from anyone that toiled his way around the independents for over a decade.

That doesn't make it any less sad for me though.

I first discovered Shane Hollister through Chikara of all places. Before that, he was a name at a few NWA No Limits shows I never saw, but little more. But he made exactly one appearance for my favorite promotion: a loss to Trik Davis in a first round match during the Young Lions Cup. I'm not sure what there intrigued me about the young star (probably the announcement of his Iowa origins), but I saw potential in the young Shug.

I watched him in AAW matches, celebrated as he won pretty much everything you could win in his trainer Danny Daniels' little Midwest indie that could. An AAW Triple Crown champion, he held the Heavyweight title for over a year, beating two far larger men with far more fame now than him: Michael Elgin and current WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens. He had a huge 2013 with amazing matches as he added sporadic CZW appearances to his career path.

An injury derailed him in late 2014 and though he would return to his home promotion of SCW (where he's also a Triple Crown winner) and AAW, it seemed clear that his months away from the promotion changed Shane's approach to the squared circle. His appearances were far more limited now, and it seemed clear he was rethinking ten years on the independents without a sign of interest from WWE, TNA or even Ring of Honor.

But on Saturday night, Shane wrestled a true classic against Marek Brave. When Brave tried to take the shortcut and use a chair, it became a no disqualification match. The two men brutally assaulted each other with the chair and the stairs. Both men got in some of their finest work I've seen in any SCW match. In the end, Brave used the chair and a handful of pants to get the win and retire Hollister once and for all. It was an epic contest and a great way to send a superb talent home just short of his thirtieth birthday.

Maybe not everyone knows the name Shane Hollister. Heck, outside the Midwest, he's probably still someone no one heard about. But his excellent combination of strikes and submissions made him one of the most exciting wrestlers to watch anywhere. Sure, he was small even by wrestling standards, but as I watch the Cruiserweight division take off on Raw,

Go out and watch some Hollister matches. You can find a plethora of them on Youtube. And let's never forget a great name in wrestling, even as he moves on to a new stage of his life.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

National Day of Lucha Libre: El Oriental, Cuije and Alebrije in Chikara

The Perros Del Mal faction in Mexico is mostly known today as a t-shirt Pentagon Jr. sometimes wears, but they were once a collection of the most wanted talent in Mexico. They also sent a team to the 2010 King of Trios. Oriental and company instantly lit the fires of the Chikara audience, though they ran into trouble against the BDK and their leader, one Claudio Castagnoli (a.k.a. Cesaro). While sadly none have returned to the promotion, El Oriental did wrestle regularly for Lucha Libre USA.

National Day of Lucha Libre: The battle of the Lucha Underground alter egos

King Cuerno and Mil Muertes are two of only a handful of Mexican talents in Lucha Underground with a different identity in Mexico. While Americans might not have as much knowledge of El Hijo Del Fantasma and might only remember Ricky Banderas from cups of coffee in Wrestling Society X and TNA, they certainly got to see both men at their most battle hardened during Ultima Lucha Dos.

National Day of Lucha Libre: Gran Metalik vs. Kota Ibushi

Before Gran Metalik there was Mascara Dorada, the rare full sized wrestler inspired by a mini. (Mascaritia Dorada is better known to American fans as El Torito.) He wrestled regularly for New Japan as well as CMLL, so check out this battle between him and Kota Ibushi as something of a "what could have been" in the CWC.

National Day of Lucha Libre: Aerostar, Drago and Fenix in action!

Aerostar, Drago and Fenix are the only team to ever be Lucha Underground Trios Champions and Chikara King of Trios, yet they never found quite as much success in their native Mexico. But they could still put on great matches. Here's one against Zorro, Cuervo and Scoria.

Today is the National Day of Lucha Libre!

Throughout all of Mexico, today may be the greatest holiday in the history of that country, for today is the National Day of Lucha Libre!

The Mexican Senate universally declared today as such, because it is also the eighty-third anniversary of CMLL's first show. The world's oldest promotion may have just lost a top talent to WWE, but its place of cultural significance in its home country is still obvious.

As a celebration today, I will post a few different unique lucha matches either from CMLL, AAA, Puerto Rico or American promotions like Lucha Underground and Chikara. But let's start with the first major appearance of lucha libre to American fans, from the single AAA American pay-per-view in 1994.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A true classic... followed by the hard truths of reality

The Cruiserweight Classic ended in epic fashion last week with two amazing semi-finals that needed to be seen to be believed, followed up by a final between arguably the underdogs of the final four with TJ Perkins walking out as the first CWC winner and the first Cruiserweight champion of a new era.

I may not have written about it yet on this site, but I honestly feel the Cruiserweight Classic has been the best thing WWE has produced since the heyday of the Smackdown Six at the beginning of the last brand extension. Booked to feel like a real athletic contest with real stakes, hyped by the perfect salesmen in Mauro Ranallo and Daniel Bryan, and filmed in front of a smart and rabid fanbase at Full Sail University, WWE proved feature programming could be a major selling point of WWE Network in the near future. Smart booking allowed relative unknowns like Sean Maluta, Ariya Daivari and Fabian (Adrian Severe) Aichner to suddenly draw a lot of attention from fans. It brought people like Gran Metalik and Kota Ibushi into a far stronger international spotlight than ever before. Cedric Alexander became a star of the future in just one match, something ROH failed to ever let the young talent ever bring a hint of in his five years of pointless toil with the company.

TJ Perkins' win surprised a few, but he's the right choice to lead the new
Cruiserweight division to glory. Image credit:
And then came Monday night.

Look, the Cruiserweight division is less than a week old, but already it feels like its been ghettoized. With the commentary team seemingly focused on "heart" of the smaller stars, they have immediately framed them into the vanilla midget stereotype Kevin Nash infamously gave them. Worse, instead of focusing on the superb athletic focused contest of the tournament, they gave us a fatal four way spotfest. And that's not to say that it wasn't a solid match, because it was, but it failed to feel particularly different than any other four way match featuring highly athletic competitors, which WWE has in droves these days.

For the Cruiserweights to succeed as a weekly part of Raw they need two things: 1. time and 2. the ability to feel different than the rest of the program. And without the focus on MMA style competition and the laser focused calls of Ranallo and Bryan, I fear that will never happen. WWE can right this ship quickly though.

Starting next week, focus the Cruiserweight division to two matches a night and always make them either traditional singles or tag matches outside very special occasions. Let the talents show their personality and build their feuds between in ring rivalries instead of out of ring snark or antics. Change up the announce team for the matches, perhaps having Saxton sit out in favor of someone who can announce, knows the move and also keep that sense of competition alive and laser focused. They've got a load of them sitting around: Jimmy Jacobs, William Regal, Sara Del Rey, Adam Pearce, Tyson Kidd, etc. etc.

I fear without that, the division will just be a failed experiment. Let's hope that's not the case.

Now, let's wait and watch to see which CWC talent makes a Smackdown debut first.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Ryan Reeves no more: the once and future Ryback

Image credit:
I can think of few stars that have left WWE in the last couple years with the ability to make as big an impact as former WWE superstar Ryback. But even though he created that gimmick before WWE, his contract with the company apparently gave them the rights to his wrestling alter ego (presumably along with his former NXT era identity Skip Sheffield.)

But as revealed on his podcast Conversations With the Big Guy, Ryan Reeves is no more. Reeves formally changed his name to Ryback, a move that will allow him to carry on his kayfabe name as he starts taking independent dates. Already having made a couple appearances as "The Big Guy", this will allow him a lot more freedom to sell himself as the huge name in wrestling he is and should be. Even if his run as a WWE main eventer was shorter than it should have been in my opinion, he still has tons of upside at only 34.

He will make an appearance in October at an upcoming WrestlePro event, but rumors of a move to Japan are already in place for Ryback. I suspect a New Japan Pro Wrestling run will begin no later than next year's Wrestle Kingdom.

For more information on Ryback and his upcoming appearances, check out his official blog or follow him on Twitter.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tommy's Take on Backlash 2016

Hey everyone, let me introduce myself real quick: My name is Tommy Brownell, and I am a writer, editor, blogger, forklift driver and retired pro wrestler (I never did anything of note and you never heard of me). I was musing recently about blogging about wrestling and my buddy Nicholas Ahlhelm offered to let me contribute here instead of starting a whole new blog, so here I am.

With that out of the way, I just wanted to share a few thoughts on Backlash 2016, the first single-brand PPV since the brand split. This is not an exhaustive play by play recap. You can find those all over the internet. So, to that end, I assume that you have either seen the show or you read the recap of your choice already.

Image credit:

Thursday, August 25, 2016

So this happened...

When did The Miz become this good? I'm not sure if this is Bryan and Miz going into business for themselves or if this is part of a major push for Mike Mizanin, but I honestly think he needed a desperate refreshing of his character as he seems to be more of a host than an Intercontinental champion of late. I pray this leads to more interesting things for him in the future, as he is one of the few traditional WWE wrestlers I still really like to see get pushed.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

That one time a potential Cruiserweight Classic winner wrestled the one-day Universal champion

It's a bit hard to believe that just a couple years ago, Finn Balor was still Prince Devitt and working indie shows between New Japan appearances. One of his last few appearances was for PROGRESS Wrestling on their thirteenth show aptly titled Chapter 13, which due to camera issues they released for free on Youtube. That match was against Zack Sabre Jr., a figure anyone watching WWE Network knows has some interest from the higher ups at WWE.

Finn may have lost his Universal title in only a day due to injury, but let's look back at the good old days, before the Demon King, when Prince Devitt was just a crazy cosplay guy.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Takeover took the weekend... again

Last year, NXT Takeover: Brooklyn stole the show over SummerSlam. Though the card was drastically different, NXT Takeover: Brooklyn II did the exact same thing. From top to bottom, the show was a rousing success.

Image credit:
The biggest point that can be made about the show is that it has been made clear that the influx of Japanese stars will be drastically important to the NXT roster. Whether it was Kota Ibushi making an appearance backstage, Hideo Itami reclaiming the finish he created when he hit Austin Aries with the Go To Sleep, Asuka knocking out Bayley or Shinsuke ascending to the top position, the heroes from the land of the rising sun shined in Brooklyn.

The weakest matches were also the spotlights for two new stars, though both were far from bad. Ember Moon versus Billie Kay never quite felt like it got out of first gear, but the O-Face (which I'm guessing will be renamed the Crescent Moon right now) created a spectacular finish. Andrade Almas still doesn't seem ready for the spot he's in, nor has NXT's booking done him any favors as a babyface against far more popular villains. But he held his own even if his position was as a jobber in the in ring debut of Bobby Roode.

And that debut was definitely one thing: glorious.

The newly named team of #DIY, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa, had an epic match-up with The Revival, which explained why they were far higher on the event card than basically any other tag title match ever. Both teams have legs as the throwback heel unit continues to sore more fans and the face unit continues to gel as a cohesive team. With Gargano and Ciampa now full time NXT roster members, I expect this feud is far from over, though a heel turn for Ciampa could happen sooner rather than later, especially with TM61 and The Authors of Pain waiting in the wings to challenge The Revival.

Asuka looked stupendous in her victory over Bayley, though I remain a bit surprised WWE still hasn't turned her heel, as NXT definitely has a lack of heel women to challenge her. Though Bayley got in far more offense in this match, her role in the future of the main roster is clear, while Asuka still has plenty of time to shine on the developmental brand as she works on her English.

And while Roode had a glorious entrance, Shinsuke Nakamura had one of the most uniquely awesome entrances in the history of professional wrestling. A shortened version is below, but I highly recommend everyone check out the replay to get the full five minute entrance as the opening alone is truly breathtaking. Big ups to the powers of be at NXT and violinist Lee England Jr for their work on it.

When all is said and done, maybe the show won't be as important as the crowning of the first WWE Universal champion. But it will remain a show that I can watch highlights from forevermore. And while no match quite captured the greatness of Sami Zayn versus Shinsuke Nakamura, NXT still delivered another in an absolutely epic series of great supercards.

Friday, August 19, 2016

A different kind of SummerSlam

SummerSlam is the big money show of the weekend, but this honestly feels like one of the strangest iterations of the event. None of the "main events" really feel like a main event to me, although I suppose Raw's offering is probably the strongest of the three. But with a double digit number of matches on the card, it promises to offer some interesting battles. And if Battleground was any indication last month, the more varied matches with smaller pre-match packages actually worked really well. Here's a rundown of the card.

Image credit:
  • Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins: I'm not sure this will actually main event, but the crowning of a Universal champion is momentous, even if the title's name is painful. I suspect this will be Rollins to win, although it does feel foolish to debut the Demon King in action and have him lose in his first outing. But it was even more foolish to have the Demon King appear days before the pay-per-view. Still it would take a momentous shift in WWE booking to have Balor win the title a month into his run as a member of the main roster.
  • Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler: Ziggler's push to main event status still doesn't quite feel cemented, which makes this feel like the weakest of the three big matches. Still, I suspect it will have strong storyline potential. I suspect a heel turn for Ziggler is in the future and with the right booking, he could be a strong new heel main eventer on the brand, not unlike Shawn Michaels in the early 90s. But it remains to be seen if WWE will really pull the trigger on Ziggler.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

NXT takes over Brooklyn again!

Just like last year, NXT takes the Barclays Center just a day before Summer Slam for Takeover: Brooklyn. And while only two competitors from last year's Brooklyn visit are still around for the return, the event promises major consequences for the developmental brand that recently lost a huge swath of their talent to Raw and Smackdown.

Image credit:

  • Samoa Joe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the NXT Title: This one screams dream match, but Joe is in a tentative place as champion, only having beat Balor in major title matches so far. Nakamura enters undefeated, so a loss here does neither man any favors. Expect the loser of this match (or this feud, should it continue) to make a main roster jump before the end of the year. 
  • Asuka vs. Bayley for the NXT Women's Title: Bayley finally gets her rematch with Asuka and again, this match offers little reward for either star. Asuka winning will burn her popularity with fans even more while Bayley's winning feels almost like a demotion for the star that should have been main roster bound months ago. Either way, if they really go this could be match of the night.
  • Andrade Almas vs. Bobby Roode: Typing Bobby Roode's name on an NXT card still feels strange, but it really feels like he outmatches Almas in every way. Almas isn't bad, but he's not at Roode's level. A victory for Almas would almost certainly turn him heel against the "Glorious" former TNA star.
  • Austin Aries vs. No Way Jose: Speaking of former TNA stars, former TNA champion Austin Aries has been at war with No Way Jose for weeks. Jose has shown some solid wrestling chops and really got the Full Sail crowd behind him. It will be interesting to see if that support continues as he takes on Aries in New York. 
  • The Revival vs. Gargano and Ciampa for the NXT Tag Titles: Gargano and Ciampa are both permanent NXT residents from all indications, complete with a new tag team name coming soon (and hopefully a better entrance video.) I'm not sure they win this match, but I suspect they will continue to feud with The Revival, hopefully straight through a new edition of the Dusty Classic at the next Takeover.
  • Ember Moon vs. Billie Kay: While I'm happy to see Billie Kay finally gaining some character on NXT television, this is all about showing off Ember Moon's talents. Hopefully she gets to retain her O-Face finisher at her new home. 
Overall it doesn't have the pizzazz of Summer Slam's top matches, but just like last year's show, it could very well outperform the big night in every way. Watch it live at 8 p.m. Eastern / 7 Central on Saturday.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Get ready for the second biggest weekend in wrestling!

WWE has two big shows coming this weekend, which I'll talk about in more detail in the next couple days. But they are far from the only promotion running pay-per-view events. Several independent promotions are also running shows over the weekend, including internet pay-per-views and even a streaming special over an indie service akin to WWE. Here's the details on some of the happenings going down.

Ring of Honor isn't quite an independent, but they are running on Friday night. It's also the odd show out as it is the only one not in the northeast area.
  • ROH World Title - Jay Lethal vs. Adam Cole: The storyline behind this one is ridiculous. Lethal insisted on a title match because he had his head shaved by the Bullet Club. Why not just demand he get a one on one match with Cole non-title? The whole thing presents Lethal as an idiot, especially since he's likely to drop the title.
  • ROH World Television Title - Bobby Fish vs. Mark Briscoe.
  • Silas Young vs. Katsuyori Shibata: Shibata makes his United States debut. I look forward to seeing Silas get his face kicked off.
  • Toru Yano and Roppongi Vice vs. Yujiro Takahashi & Guerrillas of Destiny: None of these stars make regular appearances for ROH, though Roppongi Vice has made more than the others. It feels strangely inserted, especially with regular Bullet Club members Adam Page and Young Bucks not with a listed match.
  • No other matches are listed despite Los Ingobernables De Japon, Michael Elgin, Jay Briscoe, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and tag champs The Addiction all in attendance. Strange to see ROH selling their show on so little, especially when compared to their Japanese partners that give away all planned matches ahead of time. 
The more interesting card on Friday though has to be EVOLVE 66. Gabe Sapolsky's promotion has some of the best wrestling in the world every show and this one brings the independent debut of one Cody Rhodes. And Cody's not facing just some scrub.
Image Credit:
  • Cody Rhodes vs. Zack Sabre Jr.: Most folks might just be learning about Sabre, but this should push Rhodes' wrestling skills to the test in what I hope will be an epic encounter.
  • EVOLVE Title - Timothy Thatcher vs. Matt Riddle.
  • Two battles between Cruiserweight Classic talent: Drew Gulak vs. Tony Nese and TJ Perkins vs. Cedric Alexander.
  • DUSTIN (a.k.a. Chuck Taylor) vs. Ethan Page
  • Catch Point's Tracy Williams and Fred Yehi vs. Jigsaw and Peter Kaasa

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Not a long wait for Lucha Underground Season 3

Image credit: Lucha Underground on social media
Almost six months separated the first and second seasons of Lucha Underground. But with the show finding more success and selling more merchandise, El Rey doubled down with Season 3, especially with the potential of much of its roster disappearing after the season ends. (The majority of talent have a three year exit clause in their contract.) They solved that problem by bringing Season 3 back earlier, less than a month away on September 7th. It also gives us a 40 episode season that will take us all the way through next summer!

Just like between the previous two seasons, they also gave a great preview of the new show, even though every time I see the logo, I keep thinking "what does miedo have to do with anything?" before I realize they're going for the three fingers, not Spanish for "fear".

Looks like Johnny Mundo, Drago, Sexi Star, Kobra Moon, Dr. Wagner Jr. and Katrina all have large roles to play, but I'm sure the show will balance that with the plethora of talents they have from top to bottom.

Check out the full video below.

Monday, August 15, 2016

'13' was anything but unlucky for SCW

After a couple months away, I knew I couldn't skip 13, the SCW thirteenth anniversary event. With a longer list of announced matches than usual, it promised to be a solid endeavor for the Davenport area's only professional wrestling company.

Image credit: SCW.
The show kicked off with Matt Cage, an SCW veteran and well-known Midwest star, as he battled Alex Taylor. Taylor debuted just a few months ago and I have to be honest that I was hard on him in the last couple reviews. He's vastly approved since his last appearance and really showed some babyface fire against Cage. And unlike all the previous shows I've seen him at, Taylor picked up a huge upset win over Cage to kick off the show. It would be far from the only upset of the night.

Eddie Machete seems lost since his feud with Connor Braxton ended, though he continues to put on great matches. Things were no different as he took on House of Truth graduate Xavier Wallace in the second match. Xavier quickly got over with a few solid moves, but this match was pretty much all Machete as Eddie countered everything Wallace had. He hit a wicked curb stomp to take the pin over the SCW newcomer.

The battle royal that followed featured several stars I didn't know (including a couple new Black & Brave graduates), a few recent grads and a couple veterans in Steven Youngblood and Tank Roberts. Youngblood worked a comedy spot early on where his manservant kept his feet from touching the ground, but it really went no where. JT Energy really seemed to be the standout of the match, even if he didn't really seem to have a chance of winning. Ultimately Tank Roberts picked up the win and a future Quad Cities Cup title match.

What I could find online of the other House of Truth graduate to join SCW on Saturday was so-so at best. But Dominique Fabiano definitely had credentials behind her. She put on a very solid match with Black & the Brave graduate Violet Parker. Parker picked up the win with a Widow's Peak (always a great move to watch). I would love to see Fabiano back, but I honestly think SCW needs to give in and let Violet just wrestle with the boys. She definitely needs to get more repetitions in and there's no reason to keep her benched when she's the same size as some of the young male wrestlers coming out of the Academy.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Shimmer adds a huge name to next round of shows

While the next round of Shimmer Women Athletes tapings doesn't happen until November, the tickets are already on sale. With more international fans than many independent bookings, the company often sells out quickly on front row seats. But this time around, they're doing with a big name coming to join the festivities.

Back at the dawn of the 2000s, independent women's wrestling was not nearly as well respected as it was today. WWE still had semi-trained wrestlers regularly working their women's division and the indies had only a handful of talents that actually could wrestle a ten minute match. Into that fray walked a young woman named Alexis Laree. Starting in the Washington, D.C. area, she quickly expanded to work most of the west coast as news of a major women's talent started to spread.

Image credit: Shimmer Wrestling website.
In many ways she helped innovate women wrestling on the indie scene and in her wake more young stars started to appear. She worked the earliest TNA tapings, before finally signing a WWE contract where after over a year in development, she would debut as Mickie James.

Since that time Mickie's career has been legendary, as she's become the most decorated women's wrestling champion of the modern era. With 5 WWE Women's titles, a Divas title and 3 TNA Knockout titles under her belt along with a bevy of independent titles, she's easily one of the most rewarded female wrestlers ever.

And now she'll be at three of the five shows of the Shimmer weekend.

This comes in the wake of rumors of a possible return to WWE for Mickie James as a recent article on named her "one of the hottest free agents" in wrestling.

Shimmer remains on my bucket list of shows to see live. I'm not a fan of their sales structure with DVDs of full shows and matches sold separately through the mediocre ClickWrestle service (with only one streaming show a year being made available past the first 20 events.) But they put on some epic events with some amazing talents. They were the first promotion to bring Asuka and Paige to the US after all.

Mickie and Shimmer seem like a match made in heaven. Expect great things come November 11th and 12th.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Matt Hardy's crazy has been around for awhile

Let's be honest, of the two Hardy Boyz, Matt clearly wins out on pure zaniness. He's had insane stories, real world events that reshaped his character in odd ways, and gimmicks way stronger than anything his brother has ever done. He's clearly the better actor of the two as well. Not a great actor mind you, but better than his brother.

Image credit: Matt Hardy on Twitter.
But Broken Matt has become instant gold in pretty much every promo. Look no further than the recent Talk is Jericho interview, where the active WWE star interviewed the active TNA star and Matt didn't break character once.

As covered at Diva Dirt, Matt Hardy had a major point in his career (and in oddball storytelling) on this day back in 2004 as he learns the identity of Lita's baby. (An aside: I love bringing up this story arc anytime someone tells me TV 14 WWE is inherently better than the modern product.)

Lita Reveals That Kane is Her Baby's Father (8... by irenenesser

That may be one of the earliest incarnations of Matt Hardy crazy eye. He uses it regularly now though. Broken Matt has taken the world by storm, literally as can be seen in this promo from a few days back. His threat to the Young Bucks for their South American showdown might be the most unique I've ever heard.

With nearly twenty years under his belt now, fans have seen Matt Hardy grow from young hotshot to grizzled veteran. Few have weathered that storm half as well as he. He may now be at the peak of his career. And while TNA is definitely a B-level product, its narrower range makes a lot more room for his character to shine.

What do you think of Broken Matt? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Shelton Benjamin is no longer WWE bound

Image credit; Benjamin on Twitter.
One of the most anticipated comebacks, hyped by video packages over the last two weeks, won't happen on Smackdown. Shelton Benjamin failed his pre-hire wellness checks, which have exposed a bad shoulder Benjamin has been working with for months. The injury will have to be treated before he signs with WWE. This could mean he will be back with WWE somewhere midway through next year or it could mean he will never make his return to the promotion that trained him to professionally wrestle.

A product of the OVW school, Shelton signed with WWE alongside his fellow University of Minnesota amateur wrestler Brock Lesnar. The two even teamed for months as the Minnesota Stretching Crew. But after Lesnar was called up first, he formed a team with Charlie Haas. They joined the main roster as Team Angle, briefly changed their name to The Best Damn Tag Team Period, but became best known as The World's Greatest Tag Team.

After two tag title reigns, he would become a solo star, famously beating Triple H. Though he would win the United States title once and the Intercontinental title three times, Benjamin repeatedly hit the McMahon glass ceiling, a complaint Benjamin has made in past shoot interviews. Unable to ascend to main event status, he was forced to constantly try to maintain an upper midcard presence, even switching gimmicks to become "The Gold Standard", complete with a blond dye job.

After his release in 2010, he moved to Ring of Honor alongside Charlie Haas, where abominable booking eventually drained most of the fans' appreciation for the duo. After two uneventful title runs, Haas moved into semi-retirement and Benjamin followed MVP into New Japan.

He quickly turned his back on MVP there, and joined Suzuki-gun, a.k.a. the heel stable that wasn't Bullet Club. He jumped with the rest of his stable to NJPW's sister company Pro Wrestling NOAH, where he wrestled for the last 18 months. His last major appearance for the company was in June as he unsuccessfully challenged for the GHC Heavyweight title, losing to Go Shiozaki.

His time in Japan showed he still had the talent to go and to go hard. Hopefully time healing will allow him to continue his career in a final WWE run. And hey, maybe we will see the rematch of this G1 Climax match.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Shelton Benjamin (NJPW) by JAHMAL1111

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Figured Out: Hasbro style WWE figures return next year!

I have to admit it right now: I have been an action figure collector for years but never found the Hasbro WWF figures very impressive. The cartoony designs and super-limited articulation were everything I didn't want in toys of the early 90s. While I bought from several concurrent lines (mostly post-Sgt. Slaughter) G.I. Joe, my WWF fandom was pretty much limited to Saturday morning viewing.

I didn't actually start buying WWE figures until the last couple years. I eyed a few Jakks Pacific toys back in the day, but those didn't even intrigue me as much as the stellar production qualities of modern Mattel releases.

But I know a ton of fans still exist for the Hasbro figures, so the announcement that Mattel will give up on all their other weird variant WWE figures (suck as Slam City) to give old Hasbro fans exactly what they've clamored for makes a lot of sense. They showed off the first wave of figures at Comic Con in July.

Image credit:
Toy News International got a very good shot of them there, but was nice enough to post pictures of all the prototypes on the site. They include a better shot of Undertaker and the unseen Roman Reigns.

Honestly, Kevin Owens might convince me to change my mind on this line. We'll see when a price point is announced.

The figures drop sometime in the spring of next year.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Congratulations, Rhyno

Image credit: @Rhyno313 on Twitter.
Not only did the Manbeast rejoin the Smackdown roster in the last 8 days, he could be heading to the Michigan state house next January. Rhyno, a.k.a. Terrance Guido Gerin (did that make him ECW's Big Guido?) won his primary by a whopping 56 votes in a three way race. Even as the results were coming in, Rhyno was busy goring Heath Slater this last Tuesday.

He will challenge for the 15th District seat in a voting battle with no gores allowed. Nor is his opponent Abdullah Hammoud any relation to the famous Butcher of the same name.

Also, Rhyno is amazingly only forty going into this election, meaning he's got lots of longevity left in both his wrestling and political careers.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The final WWE Top 10

Today, I am posting the final WWE Top 10 for at least the foreseeable future. Why? Because as of SummerSlam, I will start posting individual rankings for the Raw and Smackdown rosters. Stay tuned for that, but in the mean time let's take a look at the top stars of WWE after the first week of the brand extension!

Sasha Banks, new Women's Champion

  1. Sasha Banks:  The Boss finally reached the top of WWE, a place millions of fans have wanted her at since she joined the main roster. Despite some pushbacks, it is also clearly a place WWE management wants her at, as she has been groomed as the female face of the company for quite some time in advertisements and group photos. Her team with Bayley at Battleground and her huge victory on Raw make it hard to not treat her as the biggest WWE star coming out of July. (U/1)
  2. Dean Ambrose: Dean retained the WWE World Heavyweight Championship for Smackdown at Battleground. The Shield three way was an amazing match and Dean looks poised to be a major face of the company for the rest of the year. (2/10)
  3. Finn Balor: Beating four of Raw's top talents in your debut cannot be overstated. Finn is a world champion level competitor and WWE made that clear as they framed him as one of the two men that will battle for the new WWE Universal championship at Summer Slam. (U/1)
  4. Seth Rollins: He didn't win at Battleground, but Seth Rollins is still clearly the biggest star on Raw. Whether he can maintain that role after Summer Slam is anyone's guess, but he is poised to continue his role as one of the top players in WWE for months to come. (U/1)
  5. John Cena: Cena feels like he's suffering from a slight demotion right now, but he is still a key player for WWE and should remain so in the coming years. While he didn't win the title shot on Smackdown Live! last week, he did score his first pinfall on AJ Styles, a feat I suspect he will try to repeat at Summer Slam. (U/1)
  6. The Club: They might not have won at Battleground, but they made a statement the next night on Raw. The Club clearly are poised to be dominant in the tag team division and that might soon cost The New Day their championships. (U/1)
  7. Sami Zayn: His victory may have been a moral one only, but Zayn seems poised for bigger stakes as his WWE main roster career continues outside the shadow of Kevin Owens. (2/2)
  8. The New Day: The end of July was rough on The New Day, but they did take the title of the longest reigning tag champions of the modern era. Don't suspect that reign to last much longer though under the threat of The Club. (4/6)
  9. Kevin Owens: He didn't win at Battleground, but anyone in a match that good deserves a featured place on this list. (7/4)
  10. Dolph Ziggler: He didn't even get a match at Battleground, but Ziggler gets a major push as he scored the number one contendership at Summer Slam. A fresh face in the Smackdown main event scene should help differentiate the blue brand going forward. (U/1)
Ziggler made a splashy entrance into his first Top 10 on the first Smackdown
of the brand extension.
Agree with the list? Disagree? Let me know your thoughts of who you think deserved to be in the post Battleground Top 10.

Monday, August 1, 2016

16-bit wrestling music

Sometimes unique and awesome things just pop up on Youtube. Sometimes they've been around for years and I just never noticed them. Of particular note today is 16-Bit Themes. The page uses the same music generators regularly used on Super Nintendo and re-creates the theme songs of professional wrestlers. Though the page has sadly not updated in several months, it already features 30 of the best wrestling themes you can find today.

Check out a couple personal favorites below.

And be sure to check out the 16-Bit Themes page for the complete list of songs.