The New Era

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Most periods of time in wrestling are referred to as ‘eras’. The Rock ‘N Wrestling era of the 1980’s, The New Generation era of the 1990’s, The Attitude era of the late 1990’s to the early 2000’s, and to the somewhat maligned PG era of recent times there has always been an overriding theme to the content that is presented to the audience. Now we are in the midst of the latest time period in wrestling which is being referred to simply as ‘The New Era’.

In this New Era we have seen the brand split return to WWE programming this past week with Smackdown and Raw going back to acting like competing brands, a significant amount of new wrestlers being brought up and various other changes in the presentation of the product. We are very early into this new version of WWE programming, but to say things are looking promising is an understatement. This past week’s new look Raw was one of the best shows in a very long time. Finn Balor made his long anticipated Raw debut and put on a great show. Raw was action heavy with the wrestlers putting on some perfectly choreographed matches that showed great athleticism and kept you on the edge of your seat. The best match of the night goes to the Women’s Championship match between the defending champion Charlotte going against strong fan favorite Sasha Banks. It was a match that was given time to tell an excellent story in the ring and gave the audience the much desired result of Banks finally winning the title.

Smackdown was solid as well, but suffered from airing the night after such an amazing Raw. It still featured some solid moments with fan favorite Dolph Ziggler finally becoming number one contender to the WWE title and the announcement that another favorite Shelton Benjamin was going to be making his long awaited return to the WWE.

One thing that has been very promising lately is how the WWE writers and head honchos have been booking the shows. Not every match will go the way we all want it to, but it does seem that the WWE is listening to the fans and paying attention to crowd reactions. Storylines are making more sense, the matches are being given more time to develop, and different people are being featured on television and in the main events which is making the overall product more unpredictable and significantly more entertaining.

Hopefully, this trend will continue and we will continue to get some great wrestling television and see a whole new set of great memories created for those of us who love professional wrestling.

 

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WWE Ride Along

wwe-ride-alongThe WWE Network has done a great job of adding original content in the past few months and one of the newest shows is called ‘Ride Along’.

Each episode features two groups of wrestlers traveling by car from one show to another one and gives the viewers the experience of seeing these performers out of character and just acting normal.

There are only a couple of episodes so far, but some of the early highlights are The New Day (Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, Big E) traveling together and being almost as silly out of the ring as they are in it, and Renee Young, Summer Rae and R-Truth traveling together and cracking each other up. Getting to see another side of a performer like Summer Rae, that we normally do not get to experience during typical WWE programming, is refreshing.

The WWE Network is great for die hard wrestling fans like myself to have access to 1000’s of hours of WWE, WCW, and ECW programming like weekly shows, PPV’s, etc… What keeps the network growing in subscribers is original programming with shows like this one that will convince people who have been on the fence about subscribing to give it a shot.

There are many new shows coming to the WWE Network in the next several months that I am looking forward to and I will feature them on my blog between opinions on PPV’s, Raw, Smackdown, etc…

The Edge and Christian Show That Totally Reeks of Awesomeness

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Whew! That was the longest title I have typed into a blog post yet and it is perfect for a show as wonderfully ridiculous as this one.

The WWE Network not only contains 1000’s of hours of wrestling content, but also many original shows that feature some of their past performers. Edge and Christian were two of the biggest stars to come out of what is known as ‘The Attitude Era” in the WWE (late 1990’s to early 2000’s) and they were both known as two of the funniest guys on the roster. With their slapstick humor and the ‘5 second pose’ (look it up on YouTube, some genuinely funny stuff) they showed that not only were they great athletes, but overall tremendous performers which is key to a successful career in professional wrestling.

Both men are retired from wrestling, but when the WWE announced they would have their own show on the Network you knew this would be something brilliantly absurd and 2 episodes in the show has not disappointed.

Their humor is mostly wrestling based which works for the platform their show is on. Their brand of humor is simply goofy, but not irritatingly soon and the in-jokes are great. The show primarily consists of various skits, funny appearances from other wrestlers and other celebrities, and Edge and Christian simply seem to enjoy hanging out and cracking jokes.

The highlight so far is during the first episode when they talk to Fred Ottman (known as Tugboat and Typhoon in the WWE, and infamously as the Shockmaster in WCW). The Shockmaster gimmick is notorious because his debut was marked by him ‘bursting’ through a wall, accidentally falling down, and his bizarre glittered Star Wars Stormtrooper mask falling off his head. The fact that Ottman was so open to mocking himself was a blast to see and showed that he really has a good sense of humor.

It airs on the WWE Network following Raw every Monday Night.

You can sign up for only $9.99 a month with the first month being free so you can check out this show and many others and enjoy the absurdity of it all.

NXT TakeOver: Respect

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NXT is the hottest thing in professional wrestling right now and with the way things have been going there is no reason to believe that will change anytime soon.

Every NXT special has blown me away with the incredible athleticism and terrific storytelling.

NXT Takeover: Respect was another example of how great talent paired with excellent booking can make wrestling one of the most exciting forms of entertainment around.

On to the matches:

Finn Bálor and Samoa Joe vs. The Mechanics (Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder) – This was a semi-final match in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournament and it was an excellent start to the show. Both teams worked very well together and showed off some classic tag team wrestling along with some excellent spots. The match ended with Samoa Joe performing his devastating Muscle Buster maneuver and Bálor hitting the Coup de Grace for the pinfall to earn a spot in the finals.

Baron Corbin and Rhyno vs. Jason Jordan and Chad Gable – The second semi-final match in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournament was even better. All four men worked amazingly well together and the match ended with Corbin getting the pin after an insane series of moves and false finishes that have to be seen to be believed.

Asuka vs. Dana Brooke – This was Asuka’s first match in NXT after a great career in Japan and she blew the roof off the arena. The match was fast paced with a lot of stiff moves between these two women. Asuka won by submission and I cannot wait to see more from Asuka.

Apollo Crews vs. Tyler Breeze – These two worked great together and even though Crews got the win, Breeze still came off great and I cannot wait until he makes it to the main roster.

Finn Bálor and Samoa Joe vs. Baron Corbin and Rhyno – This was the final match in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournament and it was a perfect way to honor the late Dusty Rhodes. All four men put their all into this match and told a great story with Bálor having to fight through an injury (storyline wise) and both teams putting everything in to this match that they possibly could. Bálor and Joe got the much deserved win and it was great to see the Rhodes family come out to present them with the trophy and to hear the heartfelt words from one of Dusty’s sons Cody. Truly a great way to honor a great man and performer.

Bayley vs. Sasha Banks – This was a 30 minute iron man match (the wrestler with the most pinfalls or submissions after 30 minutes wins) for the NXT Women’s Championship and was the first time the women have been the true main event of an NXT special. To see women’s wrestling get to this point of great respect and main eventing is a true joy. This match was simply incredible and despite a show full of great matches this one was by far the best. Not only do these two have an amazing in-ring chemistry, but they are terrific athletes and masters at telling a story inside the ring. Whether you are a wrestling fan or not you need to see this match. It was brutal, exciting, filled with the right amount of high spots and the end with Bayley retaining her title with a 3-2 victory was amazing and the emotion seen was genuine. Both women realized they had made history and everyone in the crowd showed there appreciation with a long standing ovation. If the main roster in the WWE booked the women like this then women’s wrestling would be main eventing much more often and hopefully will.

If you are a long time wrestling fan or are looking to give it a shot, then watch NXT. It will not disappoint.

Night of Champions 2015

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Night of Champions was an overall solid show, but could have been a lot more eventful if not for some peculiar booking.

Below are my feelings on each match and always remember, there are spoilers:

The Cosmic Wasteland vs. Neville/The Lucha Dragons – A solid pre-show match with a lot of high spots from the team of Neville and The Lucha Dragons that got the crowd excited. I am really enjoying the combo of Stardust and The Ascension. The Ascension were a great team during their NXT days and have been wasted on the main roster. Forming The Cosmic Wasteland with Stardust has been just the push they need and is a ridiculous gimmick that simply works and is a ton of fun. The Cosmic Wasteland won which was a smart move to keep this rivalry going which should be nothing but fun to watch develop.

Kevin Owens vs. Ryback for the Intercontinental Championship – The good thing about this match is Kevin Owens won the IC Title from Ryback. I loved Ryback as champion, but Owens has been in the middle of a big push and is extremely talented and will do a lot to elevate the importance of the belt as a great heel champ. What I did not like about this match was the basic nature of it. We did not see many of Owens amazing in-ring moves and the ending almost seemed to come of nowhere. The matched seemed oddly paced. I am hoping they have at least 1 re-match and the chance to put on a much better contest since I feel both men are solid performers.

Dolph Ziggler vs. Rusev – First things first. I love Ziggler. He is one of my favorites and his entrance is my ringtone. He always puts on a great show and this match was no different. My issue is this rivalry has gone nowhere. They are both talented performers, but the booking team seems to have no clue what to do to really make this an interesting rivalry. Lana was a major part of it and I am sure her injury threw things off a bit, but the writers should be better skilled at working around obstacles since injuries are a typical part of professional wrestling. Ziggler won and I look forward to both men being put into different angles.

The Dudley Boyz vs. The New Day for the Tag Team Championship – The Dudley Boyz returning to the WWE after several years has been great for the WWE and the tag team division. They can still get a crowd going and put on terrific matches. The New Day are the hottest thing is wrestling right now. Big E, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods are great wrestlers and amazing on the mic. They are talented athletically and funny as hell. This match should have been one of the top matches of the night. It was not. It seemed too short and oddly paced. The New Day held on to their titles which will lead to a re-match or two and hopefully, both teams will be given more time and the chance to put on more memorable contests which we know they are capable of.

Charlotte vs. Nikki Bella for the Divas Championship – In a future post I will discuss the Diva’s Revolution and the problems with it and why it may be turning around. In regards to this match, Charlotte winning the title was the smart move. Nikki put on a very traditional mat wrestling type of match which was interesting to see and came off well. My major issue is the WWE’s desire to make Charlotte look weak compared to the other women. She is very athletically gifted and an imposing person and has been involved in some of the best matches in the WWE (men included) while on the NXT roster this year. The booking team has her spend the majority of matches on the main roster selling everyone else. She should not steam roll everyone, but she should be made to look better and more imposing. She spent this match getting in way too little offense until the very end. Better booking and she could become one of the most popular wrestlers on the main roster.

The Wyatt Family vs. Roman Reigns/Dean Ambrose/Chris Jericho – Terrific match and great story telling. Jericho was a huge surprise teammate of Reigns and Ambrose and got a huge pop from the crowd (and my household) when he came out. The match was solid with the Wyatt Family getting the big win. The big moment was at the end since Jericho’s surprise tag of Roman cost them the match. Reigns and Ambrose confronted Jericho in the ring after the match and he just gave them a nasty look and did the old ‘shoulder bump’ to Dean when he left the ring. The potential for an Ambrose/Jericho rivalry is very exciting and I hope it happens sooner rather than later.

John Cena vs. Seth Rollins for the United States Championship – Very good match. These two are at the top of their game and they always have a great match. Rollins and Cena are having amazing years and have both become so innovative with their in-ring performances that you never know what they are going to do next. Cena won the US Title and I cannot wait until the Cena Open Challenge starts back up.

Sting vs. Seth Rollins for the World Heavyweight Championship – With Sting having only his second match in the WWE I did not know what to expect in terms of the outcome. The majority of the match was solid until Sting got injured towards the end of the match. You could tell something was legitimately wrong with him and it was not part of the storyline when the medical team rushed in. After they cleared him to finish the match it came to a very quick and abrupt end with Rollins getting the pin. Hopefully, this will not be his last match in the WWE and he sounded in good spirits during interviews the past couple of days.

Overall, a solid show with some bizarre booking decisions and an unfortunate injury.

Looking forward to Hell in a Cell in October and what is being hyped as the final match between Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker! Should be mind blowing!

Wrestlemania 29

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The 29th installment of Wrestlemania was a solid show with many highlights and was one of the very few I had not seen. It was held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ and was billed as a co-location event between New York and New Jersey. It was the fifth Wrestlemania held outdoors which added a Super Bowl-type atmosphere to the proceedings. WWE has held to this new tradition of holding the biggest wrestling event of the year in big stadiums and it really adds to the atmosphere.

The highlights of the night are as follows:

Randy Orton/Big Show/Sheamus vs. The Shield – This was the first Wrestlemania for all three members of The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns) and was a solid start to the show. The highlight of the match was when Rollins attempted a top rope maneuver and Randy Orton caught him with an RKO. The match ended with a spear from Reigns to Orton and the pinfall was secured by Ambrose. Great match and The Shield were very over with the crowd.

Mark Henry vs. Ryback – A little underwhelming since the match featured two big, slower guys and the crowd was not very interested in this match. It was not horrible, just kind of a throw away match. Henry secured the win after a failed Shell Shock attempt from Ryback.

Team Hell No vs. Dolph Ziggler/Big E – A solid match that featured a very fun team in Daniel Bryan and Kane that I miss since they not only had solid matches, but their vignettes were hysterical with the two of them always being at odds. Ziggler and Big E (with AJ Lee in tow) were a very solid team as well. The match was fairly quick, but exciting with Team Hell No retaining their Tag Team Titles.

Fandango vs. Chris Jericho – This was Fandango’s debut match and the fact that it was against Jericho made it appear that Fandango was set for a big push. It was a fairly good match with Jericho having to carry the night since Fandango was more than a bit green. I could not help but feel that a debut match should not be held at the biggest event of the year. Not fair for a talent to have that kind of pressure put on them. Amazingly enough Fandango got the win, but surprisingly he was not really pushed that much after Wrestlemania. Seems a waste of such a notable victory.

Alberto Del Rio vs. Jack Swagger – This was was kind of an ironic match since both men are known to be very reckless in the ring and have both caused multiple real life injuries to their opponents. The match itself was fine with Alberto retaining his World Title, but I had one HUGE issue with the entire storyline, the racist aspect of it. During this time Swagger came out with Zeb Colter (formerly known as Dirty Dutch Mantel) with Zeb constantly attacking immigrants and mentioning how ‘those people’ should not be in our country. I have loved wrestling since I was a kid and even though I have seen my fair share of embarrassing moments on the screen most of it was fairly benign. This particular angle went too far in my opinion and with racism being a big issue in our country this was one area the WWE should have stayed out of. It got uncomfortable hearing the things that were spewing from Colter’s mouth and made the match less enjoyable.

The Undertaker vs. CM Punk -Once again, another great match from The Undertaker with CM Punk being that year’s victim of the streak. They both worked a solid, hard fought match with plenty of moments that made you think Punk could have been the one to end the streak. After a lot of back and forth The Undertaker hit Punk with a Tombstone Piledriver for the win.

Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar – This match was brutal with both men beating the hell out of each other. Triple H has always been and always will be a solid in-ring performer and he and Lesnar really worked well together with H Securing the victory via his patented Pedigree.

John Cena vs. The Rock – The big rematch from the previous year’s Wrestlemania. Both men had legitimate animosity towards each other and were able to channel that heat into an excellent match with plenty of action and false finishes. John Cena won the WWE Title with the AA and both men embraced after the end of the match showing true respect for each other.

Overall, a good show that was fun to watch for the first time even though I already knew the outcomes of some of the matches.

Next week I will be watching Wrestlemania 30 again and even though I already reviewed it last year, I am looking forward to a second viewing and seeing if my opinion has changed on any of the matches knowing some of the real life stories behind them, especially The Undertaker/Brock Lesnar match which I was not thrilled with a year ago.

Remember, you can watch all of these shows yourself and so much more by subscribing to the WWE Network for only $9.99 a month!

Wrestlemania 28

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The 28th edition of Wrestlemania was a major step up from the previous year’s installment and is a must watch event.

The highlights:

Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk – A very good match between two great performers at the top of their game. The story they told in the ring was powerful and engaging. Jericho had spent the past few weeks attacking Punk’s family’s issues (his Dad was an alcoholic and his sister had drug abuse issues) which really added to the drama of the match. The in ring result was a great match that saw Punk win with the Anaconda Vise.

Randy Orton vs. Kane – A solid match between the two which ended with Kane getting a surprising and much deserved win. Kane is one of the all time best big men in wrestling and he has a great in-ring chemistry with Orton.

A Hell in a Cell match featuring The Undertaker vs. Triple H with Shawn Michaels as the guest referee – Simply wow…their match a year before was a classic and this one somehow out did it. The match was brutal, violent, yet technically proficient and ended with The Streak being extended to 20-0. Michaels was also used very effectively in the match. He interfered on a couple of occasions, but it made sense and did not disrupt the quality of the match. He added a significant amount of drama to the bout that worked very well. The ending with the three men embracing was emotional and heart felt.

John Cena vs. The Rock – Great match that ended with a Rock Bottom out of nowhere that secured the win for The Rock. Even though the previous Wrestlemania was frustrating at times, coming off as just a big lead up for 28, it was worth it and provided a great main event.

The skits – I complained about 27’s excessive skits and the 28th edition corrected it. There were a few skits that were brief and effective, especially a funny one involving Mick Foley and Santino.

Honestly, not too much to complain about. The first match of the night for the World Title saw Sheamus take the belt from Daniel Bryan in 18 seconds and was a bit of a disappoint since these two work well together, but it did advance a storyline so it was tolerable.

Definitely a must watch Wrestlemania that gets me excited to see number 29 and the big rematch between Cena and The Rock.