Thursday, April 21, 2016

The revolution began with Chyna

I suspect I have read almost a dozen memorials for Chyna today. For a woman whose career consisted of five years work and a few sporadic appearances in the fifteen years since, people still seem to see her importance. Her legacy looms large. Long before Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Paige and the current WWE female superstars started their revolution, Chyna was changing the face of what women could do in wrestling.

From her start as the muscle for Triple H and Shawn Michaels to her two reigns as Intercontinental champion, she did things in WWE no woman has done before or since. That influence can be felt all around the wrestling world, from Chikara's current Grand Champion Kimber Lee to Lucha Underground's focus on intergender wrestling in their pushes of talents like Sexy Star and Ivelisse.

Drugs, abusive relationships and porn cloud the picture, but Chyna was an innovator whether she ever meant to be or not. Her legacy within WWE storytelling disappeared when her boyfriend Triple H left her for Stephanie McMahon, and her place in the Hall of Fame was thrown away by a shallow excuse about her adult film career, but fans of professional wrestling know few women can match the accomplishments of The Ninth Wonder of the World.

However she died doesn't really matter. What matters is everything she did to pave the way for the future of women's wrestling for decades to come.

No matter what anyone does or says, no one and nothing can ever erase that. Goodbye, Joanie, and thank you.

Monday, April 18, 2016

An "Epic" night in Wallcott with SCW!

Last April I went to my first SCW show, the 2015 edition of Epic. One year later, I returned for the 2016 edition and it offered the best night of Iowa-based wrestling action I have seen. In front of a packed crowd of 224, the night was wild, crazy and well worth the price of admission from beginning to end.

Image credit: SCW.
The show kicked off with the fifth graduating class of The Black & Brave Academy in a battle royal. Gyasi D'Wayne, Ript Studwell, Dante Leon, JT Energy and Mike Heights were all making their in ring debut and I saw some good stuff here. But the battle royal format wasn't a good showcase for these five young men and probably never could have been. It is hard to even get the names of the young stars when they're all in the ring at once. In the future a short tag match might be a better idea, even if it means inserting a more established star to even the odds. Someone like Zicky Dice or Raveboy would fit in that slot well. Only D'Wayne really intrigued me in his thirty seconds of offense, but I hope all five men get more chances to shine.

A new team debuted in the second match of the night as Latin Thunder made his return to the promotion to team with the other masked superstar of SCW, Sentai. The lucha-resu team looked good in their first outing as a unit as they took on Jay Iglesias and Kourtesy. I was not particularly kind to the two young Black & Brave graduates last month, but the Pop Idols looked far more crisp tonight. Still the masked men took the win in what would have been a far stronger opener.

King Steven Youngblood came to the ring again, his squire in tow. The King of Scot County got booed from the arena, which made him a hot opponent for Bobbi Dahl. After former a makeshift tandem with Raveboy last month, Dahl seems to have taken the young star under his wing this month, as he served as his second. This was one of two battle of the big men on the show and was certainly the more entertaining of the two. The two units looked great and Raveboy seems to have picked up the comedic aspects of Dahl's gimmick. If SCW is wise, they will keep these two units working against each other for the next few months and build a feud here. I suspect itt will be great for the young stars working under the veterans here.

One thing SCW needs to work on with their undercard is a bit more intelligent booking. Johnny Wisdom defended the Quad City Cup in the next match, but against men that seemed to have no reason to be there. Chris Davies wasn't familiar to me at all, while Alex Taylor has taken two straight losses in his two matches. Either Tank Roberts or Shane Hollister would have made more sense here as challengers.

None the less, Wisdom defended against both men. Taylor looked so much better than he did in last month's botch fest that served to make me just feel bad for Tank Roberts. He still hasn't quite mastered the high flying style he's trying to use, but he's growing and that's important for a guy with only a few matches under his belt. Wisdom though was the real star of the show as he worked his gimmick ("No flips, just fists") with some powerful strikes and some crisp transitions as he helped carry the two youngsters to a solid match. Seriously, SCW is worth checking out just for the hidden gem that is Johnny Wisdom.

The final match before intermission was a battle set up at last month's show, but strangely didn't get announced until a few days before the show. Shane Hollister and Krotch are both long time SCW competitors. Krotch took exception to Shane's new attitude last month, setting up a showdown this month. That showdown stole the show as the two men put on a hard hitting match with near fall after near fall. Hollister is one of the best American wrestlers working a puro-inspired style while Krotch is a man that has perfectly mastered his odd gimmick. He worked as an amazing babyface to the brutality of Shane, as both hit big moves in an attempt to take down the other. Shane whipped out a Rainmaker clothesline that would have done Okada proud and a rather nice shining wizard. Still keeping Krotch down proved a challenge. Ultimately, strike after strike proved too much. Even Krotch knew it, but he remained defiant to the end.

SCW spent eight months building to their main event at Epic. If they are smart, they make this match the first in a long running feud between both men. This could be a great story to anchor the company through the end of the year.

After intermission, things kicked off with Tank Roberts and a repackaged young star. The former T-Buck has dropped his party boy gimmick in favor of the new name Ross "The Hoss" Reznik. After intermission, it left fans flat. SCW really loved T-Buck and I think the company was ill advised to make the identity change without Reznik even giving a promo to explain his change after the brutal beating by Mason Beck two months ago. He looked solid in his victory over Tank, but this was a let down after the previous big man battle earlier in the night.

Also, one tip to Ross "The Hoss". If you're going to use that nickname, it is time you master a lariat, my friend.

The tag team titles were on the line next. Zero Gravity was supposed to be in to challenge Adrian Alexander and Bodie Van Zandt, but a medical emergency kept Brent Gakiya away. CJ Esparza brought in a different partner, the beloved Zicky Dice. Dice has an absolute charm in the ring and unlike several of the young recruits in SCW, wears proper wrestling gear. Tatted up and a bit crazy, he has everything he needs to get over if he can get more bookings. Anyone familiar with Zero-G knows what Esparza can do. The high flyer worked really well with Zicky in a crazed battle, but ultimately Alexander and Van Zandt's dirty tricks allowed them to get the victory in a match that opened their second year in the business.

The first of the double main event put the SCW title on the line as Marek Brave defended against Mason Beck. This match was built to be a fairly obvious title change, with Beck running roughshod over the roster over the last several months. But it was really about just how good Brave is at selling an injury. A bump early on aggravated his well known back problems and he hobbled through much of the match as referee Brett Hadley and commissioner Sean Morrow both checked on his health. But he refused to forfeit the title and kept fighting back against Beck's offense. But the selling all set up a great spot as Brave took a massive powerbomb off the top rope to lose the match and pass the title to Mason Beck.

That left one match: a Walcott Street Fight between the first two students of the Black and Brave Academy. Connor Braxton and Eddie Machete have evolved amazingly in just under a year and a half as wrestlers. They showed at Epic why they deserved their main event spot with a brutal battle.

That battle was almost derailed early on during a lightsaber style duel with a pair of chairs. One of the first strikes caught Braxton's hand. His hand was clearly bleeding after that and he didn't move them much at all after that. But Braxton showed why he has a future in the business as he continued to work the match even with clearly broken fingers.

He brought out a shopping cart filled with weapons and implements from a golf club to baking sheets to a bowling pin. And of course, the mighty kendo stick. All were involved in the rest of the match as both men brutally struck each other again and again. They both took brutal moves onto chairs and the baking sheets.

But ultimately this proved to be Braxton's moment as he finally got a clean 1-2-3 over his turncoat partner. But even in defeat, Machete looked amazing. Both men can be incredibly proud of themselves for an amazing main event.

Little was announced for next month's Revival outside of one big debut. The Black in the Black & Brave Academy is one Tyler Black, better known now as Seth Rollins. His (ex-?)girlfriend and former NXT talent Zahra Schreiber has been working a lot in the Midwest, but it looks like she will stay close to home as she makes her debut in SCW next month. She is certainly a controversial figure in wrestling as the reason for her release and her celebrity before that were not exactly golden moments. But she is committed to the building and I'm curious to see what she does in the promotion. She certainly should prove a foil for SCW's single sidelined female talent, Violet Parker.

Image credit: SCW.
I can make some predictions though. I suspect if Braxton is well enough to compete, he'll start a feud with Beck sooner than later. He cleary has been groomed for the SCW main event and he looked good last month against the new champion. Hopefully, the company is wise enough to keep a few feuds going in the form of Youngblood vs. Dahl and Krotch vs. Hollister. More with Latin Thunder and Sentai as a team seems smart as well, perhaps a tag title feud with the current champions. And of course, the company has up to five new stars to place up and down the card as well.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Top 10 Wrestlers of WWE, April 2016 edition

It has been six weeks since we last ran down the list of the top wrestlers in WWE. As the post-Wrestlemania WWE starts to take shape, let's look at all the wrestlers that are getting television time and excelling right now.

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  1. Dean Ambrose: Dean didn't have a very good Wrestlemania, nor did he appear on the post-Wrestlemania episode of Raw. But as he starts a new storyline with Chris Jericho, he seems ready to build his credibility back up. It seems likely he will continue to be a pseudo-main eventer over the next several months, even if WWE seems terrified of putting the title belt on him. (1/4)
  2. Chris Jericho: Jericho picked up a strange win over AJ Styles at Wrestlemania. It seems in hindsight, the purpose was to make it clear that Jericho deserved a continued spot on WWE television for the next few months. Expect a long feud between him and Ambrose, most likely leading towards a SummerSlam resolution to his current run. (U/1)
  3. Charlotte: I am not sure I am happy with a lot of the current booking behind Charlotte, but she continues to rise to the top in women's matches. The main roster has exposed many of her weaknesses in match building, but she still excels when working with ring generals like Sasha, Becky and her latest foe: the always solid Natalya. (9/5)
  4. Roman Reigns: He won the main event of Wrestlemania, but it is still hard to treat Roman as an important figure in WWE. Fans react horrifically to all his appearances. The plodding main event had fans leaving Wrestlemania early. Reigns has great talent, but he will never be a huge star under his current direction. Hopefully WWE realizes his current tweener gimmick can take him into a strong heel turn to get him solidly set as a top player in the company. (10/6)
  5. The New Day: Big E, Kofi and Xavier might be victims of their own success. They have been left with few unbeaten opponents in the still remarkably strong tag team division. The current tag tournament should help them find new opponents. Personally, I think it's time for the team to lose the belts. WWE would be far wiser to move the group into solo feuds, though without breaking up a unit that often brings the most entertainment value to any episode of Raw. (3/6)
  6. Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady: Enzo and Cass finally debuted on the main roster the night after Wrestlemania. Of all the talents that are new to the roster right now, they are clearly the most over by leaps and bounds. The two men seem poised to take the roster by storm in the same way The New Day did exactly a year ago. I suspect we will see a successful tag team run for both men in the coming months, even if it doesn't come with an immediate title shot. (U/1)
  7. Kevin Owens: Back in prize fighter without a prize mode, KO still commands attention on every appearance. The brutality shown between him and Zayn seems ready to ignite into a massive feud between both men. If played right, WWE could build either man to main event status in a matter of weeks. (6/6)
  8. Cesaro: The Swiss Superman returned to WWE the night after Wrestlemania and instantly set himself up as a strong contender for the best talent on the roster. WWE realizes they have a great star with the King of Swing, but they still seem unsure of the direction he should go in. With a Intercontinental title shot in his future, he could easily bring some prestige to the belt, especially if they allow him to showcase his talents the way Cena did with his open challenges. (U/1)
  9. Sami Zayn: The Zayniacs have to be overjoyed at the attention Sami has received in WWE. He had a great showing at his first Wrestlemania, and eight days later he had a barnburner of a match with the number one wrestler for the number one contendership. The company clearly understands they have a strong talent with Zayn, but it remains to be seen if he will follow the career path of Cesaro and Ambrose, never quite able to break into the main event scene. (U/1)
  10. AJ Styles: WWE has a hot ticket with AJ Styles and it seems the company realizes it. Coming off his New Japan run, Styles has put on amazing WWE match after amazing WWE match. After two wins in two matches, he has secured his place as number one contender. My only fear right now is that WWE might pull a heel turn for Styles soon to form some kind of WWE version of the Bullet Club. I think it could only be called a mistake to turn Styles heel now, at the height of his babyface popularity. And the real question may be if WWE is actually willing to allow Styles to beat Reigns, perhaps the ultimate example of an outside talent beating the established WWE star. (4/3)
The new number one contender is currently the hottest star on the WWE roster.
Image credit:
As a reminder, the twin number rankings for the wrestlers list their previous ranking on the list (a U means they were unlisted) and the number of lists the wrestler has appeared on in a row.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Wrestlemania 32 can only be looked at with disappointment

I had high hopes going into Wrestlemania 32. Last year's show had a lackluster card on paper, but it delivered quality wrestling match after match. This year the show started with a big surprise and ended with a resounding thud.

More than a few fans felt like Stardust after 7 hours of mostly mediocre action.
Image credit:
The seven way Intercontinental title match opened the show as it did last year. Ladder strikes and crazy stunts ensued and fans quickly were reminded why ladder matches are always fun. Sin Cara's plunge outside onto Stardust is the stuff of highlight reels. And Zack Ryder's win, even if he would lose the title only a day later, definitely goes down as a shocking Wrestlemania moment. Unfortunately, it was the last one for quite some time.

Chris Jericho and AJ Styles put on another barnburner of a one on one match, with AJ's entrance being one of the first to really make the special stage look awesome. They went longer than the IC match and used every minute of it well, but ultimately it ended with Styles taking the loss in a strange booking decision. He and Jericho are now 2 and 2 in their series, so I expect a rubber match sometime in the near future, maybe even before Styles gets his title shot at Payback.

Nicole Savoy is destined for greatness: Shimmer 80 in review

Image credit: Shimmer Women Athletes
After last year's ChickFight Tournament on Wrestlemania weekend, this year Shimmer presented another tournament, this one debuting a new singles belt for the promotion. Just like the last tournament it featured 12 women with a three way final.

The first round interested me greatly while angering a lot of long time Shimmer fans as it featured multiple upsets. While Cheerleader Melissa took the win in the opening match, veterans LuFisto and Jessicka Havok took losses to Nicole Savoy and Kimber Lee, neither of which surprised me as I picked Savoy for the winner of the tournament while Kimber has great success as the current Chikara Grand Champion.

Another Chikara regular Heidi Lovelace, former Shimmer champ Nicole Matthews and longtime indie favorite Candice LeRae completed the semi-final six, only for two more upsets removed Melissa and Matthews from the final round. It would be Heidi Lovelace, Nicole Savoy and Candice LeRae in the three way final.

Last year going into the ChickFight Tournament, I had no clue who Nicole Savoy was. As a native Californian, she was an obvious pick for the San Jose show. She impressed with a shock win over Candice LeRae that night, before falling to New Zealand's Evie in the semi-finals. Still, she looked great with a mix of suplexes, strikes and submissions, basically everything I like in professional wrestling. I predicted a lot of attention paid to her by Shimmer in the coming year.

That didn't quite happen. She went one for four at the next set of Shimmer's tapings, while the next four shows saw her go two and two, though one loss was to the standing Shimmer champion in a main event. Still, it seemed like the powers that be saw the same things I saw in Savoy as a future women's star.

The Heart of Stardom event proved to be her moment to shine. From her upset over LuFisto in the opening round, submitting the hardcore icon, followed by her defeat of Kimber Lee in the semi-finals, she looked like a million bucks. The main event she dominated for much of the match, ultimately submitting two more foes to take the Heart of Stardom championship and show herself to be a true submission specialist.

Smart money will predict a strong push for Savoy over the next year at Shimmer shows as she will seek to elevate her new title to the level of Madison Eagles' Shimmer Championship. I suspect Savoy will start to shine at those shows and start to draw attention from more independent promotions around the country.

And if WWE and NXT are smart, a contract won't be far removed. Savoy has everything it takes to be a major wrestling star. Let's make that happen.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Mercury Rising delivered a supershow in a way Wrestlemania didn't

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Every year WWN throws a Supershow to end their nights of wrestling action over Wrestlemania weekend called Mercury Rising. This year it was a tribute to Terry Funk as well as a chance to show off three title matches from three different WWN brands. But honestly the best part of the night was easily the six man main event.

The show opened with another match in an ongoing feud between Zack Sabre Jr. and Chris Hero. Sabre is a world class cruiserweight, The two had an epic battle that used much of both men's love for traditional British wrestling, though Hero focused far more on his elbow and knee strikes against Sabre. Hero has fallen seriously out of shape in the last few months, but he put on a hell of a match at Mercury Rising.

I finally got my first view of internet darling Fred Yehi in the second match as he battled Drew Gulak. The two men put on a stellar technical match in a company already known for stellar technical wrestling. Gulak proved to be slightly better, but Yehi earned another opportunity to join Gulak's stable Catch Point. This time he shook Gulak's hand and accepted the title offer.

Monday, April 4, 2016

NXT Takeover: Dallas stole the show before the weekend began

I watched four different wrestling pay-per-views over the weekend and this week I am going to give my thoughts on them from best to worst, day by day. Which means the best place to start is pretty obvious.

Takeover: Dallas debuted Friday night and made the rest of the weekend look bad in comparison.

These two could wrestle ninety minutes and I think we would all still
love it. Image credit:
The booking team knew how to start the show out hot as The Revival defended their tag titles against American Alpha. Someone backstage understands the draw of Chad Gable and Jason Jordan, and this match was booked to all of their strengths. That's not to say that Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder didn't also look great, because both teams truly brought it in a fifteen minute classic. Jordan and Gable ultimately picked up the win with the always awesome Assistplex and began what is hopefully a long reign as NXT Tag Team Champions.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The best modern Wrestlemania match... and predictions for this year's show!

With a clean sweep in the final voting, it seems that Daniel Bryan's huge victory ranks as the finest Wrestlemania moment of the 2010s. It destroyed Undertaker and Shawn Michaels in the finals, perhaps a sign of how much fans really wanted to see more of Bryan in WWE's main event.

Image credit: WWE.
The show kicks off as I type this. Kalisto unsurprisingly beat Ryback seconds ago. But that is only one of many matches tonight.

Here's my predictions for the night:

  • BAD & Blonde take the win over the Total Divas when Eva Marie betrays them. 
  • The Usos turn the Dudleys table against them for the win. 
  • The League of Nations get a win over The New Day in the non-title confrontation.
  • AJ Styles ends his feud with Chris Jericho and sends Y2J packing until SummerSlam.
  • Cesaro will surprise everyone and take the Andre the Giant Battle Royal.
  • Kevin Owens pulls out the win in the IC match. 
  • Sasha Banks steals the show and wins the Divas title, only to turn it back to the Women's belt.
  • Dean Ambrose pulls out a win over Brock Lesnar in a match that goes all over the ring. 
  • Roman Reigns takes the win over Triple H, but turns heel in his own rate. I'm guessing either Bullet Club or Wyatt Family interference. 
  • Shane beats Undertaker in the main event, after Sting helps screw over Shane's team. 
There it is. Let's see how I did. In the mean time, enjoy the rest of the show! 

Friday, April 1, 2016

The finals are here! What is the best modern Wrestlemania match?

On Monday 48 entered. Today, two survive. On Sunday morning, the winner will be revealed and the greatest Wrestlemania match of the 2010s will be revealed.

Two main events survive and both of them are true greats. But only one can be the winner.

Image credit: WWE.
Daniel Bryan was guaranteed a spot in the finals as his twin Wrestlemania XXX matches faced off in the last round. His rousing title victory over Randy Orton and Batista won, probably as much for this image as for quality of matches as both were amazing encounters.

Image credit: WWE.
The career versus streak match between Undertaker and Shawn Michaels was in my opinion not quite as good as their previous encounter, but that one falls out of the purview of this survey. Still their contest was an epic one and Shawn Michaels' retirement is still felt in WWE today.

Two epic matches. Both arguably changed the face of WWE. But which one was best? You decide!

Voting closes Sunday morning at 5 a.m. Central time. To make things even more interesting, voters can place a vote today and on Saturday. Let your opinion be heard! And we will see you on Sunday for a special Wrestlemania preview post!