This week in pro wrestling, the pandemic of COVID-19 affects the world of wrestling. With no live crowds for the foreseeable future, how will pro wrestling adapt? Will story lines be scrapped? Will PPVs be cancelled? We will do our best to provide coverage in this ever changing worldwide situation. Huge debuts in AEW, WWE attempts to build towards WrestleMania, and curious announcements. Let’s take a look in this week of pro wrestling.
This week on Raw is airing from the Performance Center in Orlando. This is the first time that Raw has been aired there, as like SmackDown from last week. Big names arrive, such as the Undertaker, Edge, and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Can the WWE salvage another live show or will it go down in flames? Well, let’s find out.
Edge’s acting chops on display. Contract signing. The only live match.
Last man standing.
Edge kicked off the quiet show and put on a great display of his ability to cut a promo. Even without a crowd, Edge still kept the viewers engaged throughout the promo. Of course the promo would’ve been better with a live crowd, but this is a testament on good Edge is. The Rated R Superstar call back on how the Viper and himself grew in the company, while being mentored by Mick Foley.
However, Orton did not learn one thing.. grit. Edge states that Randy does not love him, he is jealous of him. Because Edge can do things that the Viper can not and it tears him apart. At the end, Edge states that their match will be a Last Man Standing match. This would be great if their was a crowd for WrestleMania, alas there will not be. More on that later.
The American Badass?
A furious Undertaker took to the ring and tore up the table and chairs. However, this was a Taker that was devoid of theatrics and was looking like his old American Badass gimmick. After the break, Tom Phillips stated that there was no contract present, further infuriating Taker. AJ Styles then appeared on screen with the contract in hand. After insulting the Deadman, Styles signed the contract and sent his goons Gallows and Anderson to attack Taker. The Phenom takes out both men with ease, signs the contract and stuff it in Anderson’s mouth.
This segment really was hurt by not having a crowd. The crowd would’ve went red hot for a Taker not giving a damn about his gimmicks and just wanted to destroy AJ. However, it did its job and built towards the Deadman vs The Phenomenal One. Solid effort, bit he lack of crowd did hurt.
Rey Mysterio vs Andrade in a non-title match. Rey wins via Dime Drop pin fall.
In the only match of the night, Rey and Andrade put on a standard match. It was not as stellar as their former matches and felt a bit phoned in. However, even with that… Rey and Andrade can put on match better then most. Andrade took on Rey with an aggressive start, dropkicking a flying Rey in midair. After the break, Mysterio fought back and we were blessed with The Empress Asuka on commentary. After tonight’s show, we NEED to have Asuka on commentary more often! Rey catches Andrade with the 619 and a Dime Drop for the win.
Filler. Becky Lynch arrives. Kevin Owens is passionate. 3:16 Day!
A good amount of Raw was taken up by a replay of the 2020 men’s Royal Rumble… with commercial breaks. This would be great for fans that did not see Brock Lesnar put on a great performance, Edge’s return, and Drew McIntyer winning it all. But let’s face the facts, almost all of the WWE fans already saw it. If not live, then on the WWE network or the copious recap before the pandemic. This was either lazy or WWE could not come up with more content on the fly. I’m going with lazy.
The Man and her promo.
Lynch arrived to the Performance Center in a custom 18-wheeler, a nod to Stone Cold. The Man sets her sights on Baszler, and for the second consecutive week cuts a great promo. It was short, but sweet and Lynch left out the humor. Which seemingly more effective for her. Becky states that Shayna bullied her way to the top, and she is tired on being the hunted and she will be doing the hunting. Good stuff Lynch, let’s hope the match lives up to the build.
This is Kevin Owen’s house.
KO takes the mic from Charly Caruso and cuts a passionate promo. Owens states that he loves the fact that he and Seth Rollin’s match will take place in the Performance Center. A place were his WWE career began. The Prize Fighter states that he amassed a great amount of knowledge and memories there. Owens is wanting to add another.. defeating Seth Rollins at the Performance Center.
The look in the eyes of Owens was intense, you felt the passion burning off of Owens as spoke every word. When Kevin is in this Super Saiyan state of promos, he simply can not be touched. KO cut a promo that made the fans want to see a fight between Seth and himself. A match that has been over exposed for weeks, if not months. That there my friends is a promo done right.
Byron Saxton is not a fan of 3:16 Day.
WWE Hall Of Famer and arguably the most popular WWE star ever, Stone Cold Steve Austin closes the show. How does he do it? By raising some hell and drinking beer of course! In the ring with the Rattlesnake is long time victim of pain, Byron Saxton. Stone Cold goes down a list of what 3:16 Day means to him and what four letter words he can say. Austin asks to score each one, states that this is a tough crowd, don’t you ever change Austin! The Rattlesnake invites Tom Phillips and Jerry The King Lawler to the ring for some Broken Skull IPA. Stone Cold then drops a Stunner on Saxton, just like the good ol days.
Becky Lynch arrives for the party, stepping on and over Saxton for a toast. The duo drank some more beer and Austin gives another Stunner to Byron to close the show. Even when there is no crowd, Austin can create an atmosphere that the viewers enjoy. However, this segment proves on much Stone Cold feeds of a live audience.
The 3:16 list fell a tad flat without hundreds of people yelling “WHAT?!” Even we all saw the Stunner to Saxton (he always gets a Stunner) a mile away, it was still fun stuff. A toast with Austin in closing is usually reserved for the top act and face of the company. The fact that it was Becky Lynch, proves that Vince may have change his mentality towards female talent.
News about WrestleMania and afterthoughts.
Honestly, this felt like a lazily crafted show. You had the Royal Rumble eat up most of the show and ONE FREAKIN MATCH! That was simply a display on how WWE had no idea on what to do tonight. Awful and boring show, with great promos sprinkled in.
The news of WrestleMania being canceled in Tampa Bay broke earlier in the day. The Grandest Stage of Them All, will now be streamed on the WWE Network and without a crowd. Also, The Hall Of Fame ceremony and NXT TakeOver has been canceled. Huge loss for WWE there. WrestleMania will now take place over two nights and at multiple locations and be hosted by former NFL player, Rob Gronkowski. This will be very interesting. Whether a success or an extreme failure.. this year’s Showcase Of The Immortals will live on in the memories of the fans forever.-David G.
Dynamite had no crowd as well tonight, will AEW learn from the WWE on how to put on a crowd-less show? Will the show be all filler and no thriller? Not at all.. Dynamite had a host of matches on the card. Teh Elite and The Inner Circle duke it for Blood and Guts advantage. The Lucha Bros take on Best Friends. The Exalted One debuts!! As well as another HUGE debut!! Let’s dive in, because THIS IS DYNAMITE!
State of the AEW union address. Best Friends clash against Lucha Bros. Four-way ladies action.
The Elite unite.
Cody comes out to a darken ring and address the state of Dynamite with the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Nightmare passionately talks about how even though we stay indoors, he will not live a life of prison and has never felt more alive. The Dashing One mentions Matt and Adam page and they need to get over their anger. Rhodes state that he needs Kenny Omega to be at his finest, even though they always see eye to eye.
Matt and Omega join Cody in the ring and add to the opening. Kenny is not even sure if Dynamite will continue. Matt states that his brother Nick is out of commission due to the attack last week. The older Jackson, calls out Adam Page and ask for him to stand with the Elite. Hangman walks out with a glass of whisky, raises it and gives a nod to Matt. Omega states that the world needs some positivity right now. So it’s time to hit the lights, hit the pyro, and get Dynamite underway!
That was an opening! Despite not having a crowd, The Elite fed off raw emotions and delivered an impactful start. They are right, we need some positivity and AEW is going to help with that.
Lucha Bros vs Best Friends w/Orange Cassidy. Lucha Bros win via Spiked Package Powerdriver pin fall.
Another fast paced, action packed match between the two teams. It’s amazing how even without a crowd, the AEW talent seems to feed off each other. With that being said, AEW did something different then what WWE did. AEW, actually had a small crowd… a crowd of AEW talent at ring side. One side had the heels and the other side was the faces. MJF and Shawn Spears hilariously were betting on the outcome of the matches and the faces provided support to other good guys/gals. That small difference vastly added to viewing of Dynamite. You got reactions, ooos and ahhs, and some fine MJF heckling. I see WWE emulating this in the future.
After a hard fought battle, Pentegon Jr hits a low blow on Trent. This allows the Lucha Bros to hit the Spiked Package Powerdriver fo the win. Afterwards, Tony Schiavone asks Best Friends impression of The Death Triangle. Chuck states that had to “Kick my friend in the d*^k!”. Taylor then challenges Death Triangle to a Parking Lot match next week. I can’t imagine the carnage that will be on display for that match.
Hikaru Shida vs Riho vs Kris Statlander vs Penelope Ford w/Kip Sabian. Shida wins via Running Knee pin fall.
A fun match.. Ford was impressive with some nice high flying moves. However, Shida stood out in this match with her fierce strikes. Riho played to underdog role with perfection again and Statlander proves that she is still a powerhouse. There was a few missed moves, but it was little things. The ladies but on a great match and keeps the momentum of the division going. Shida hits a Running Knee on Ford for the pin fall. Tony interviews Colt Cabana at ringside and Colt praised Penelope. However, Cabana states that Kip is holding her back. Sabian hears that and walks over and slaps Cabana. Probably starting a feud for the future.
Jurassic Express takes on The Blade and Butcher. The Exalted one debuts! The Elite and Inner Circle fight for position.
Jurassic Express vs The Blade/Butcher. Jurassic Express wins via Double Cutter pin fall.
Again, a fun match… not because it had Jurassic Express. It was because of MJF yelling from ringside, attempting to coach his goons. The heels had control of the match and MJF started to yell “FULL DEATH! GO FOR THE FULL DEATH!”. Apparently, that is the name of the Butcher and Blade’s finisher.. the more you know. Anyways, the barking from MJF actually distracted the Blade and Butcher. Allowing for Jurassic Express to hit a team Cutter for the win. Not much to drive a story or was it must see action. The match was passable and filled a need for air time. That’s about it.
The Exalted one is….
Evil Uno arrives with Greyson and cuts a promo. I am going to be giving props to mic skills on this segment, but let’s start with Uno. The mouthpiece of the Dark Order seems to be underrated to me. I can’t stress on how well Evil Uno is on the mic, locking in an audience with his eyes and behind a mask. SCU interrupts and calls Uno a liar, Christopher Daniels is over the promise of The Exalted One arriving. Just when Daniels states that The Exalted One does not exist… a video appears on screen.
In a package full of crows and moody atmosphere, it was thinking this where Broken Matt Hardy arrives. That was a BIG NO! The Exalted One is none other than…. BRODIE LEE (aka Luke Harper in WWE)!!!!! Initially, I was kind of disappointed, but then… then the big man cut a promo like I have never seen from him. Brodie states that he and the Dark Order will take what they want. If the Dark Order knocks, let them in (nice nod to Bray Wyatt and his Fiend character). Lee then states that Christopher “Is not the first OUT OF TOUCH OLD MAN that didn’t believe in him”.. HOLY SNICKER DOODLE!!! PEW! PEW! Shots fired at Vince McMahon!
The segment ended with Brodie in ring with The Dark Order and taking out SCU. This debut could’ve so gotten a red hot pop from a live crowd. Alas, it still had it’s shock factor and I believe many smark viewers lost it when they saw Lee. When a crowd will be available for shows, I can see The Dark Order with Brodie Lee getting over with the fans and even being cheered.
The Elite has a plan.
The Inner Circle vs The Elite, winner gains man advantage for Blood and Guts PPV . The Inner Circle win via roll up pin fall.
A great match, followed by an even greater debut. This match stipulation was the winning team gets a man advantage at Blood and Guts. My guess is that the winning team gets to have a two on one advantage. The match was fun and fast, with Sammy Guevara and MJF taking the place of the crowd signing Jericho’s Judas song. Le Champion was also on commentary for the match, ordering nonsensical yet comical requests. The Inner Circle comprised of Santana/Ortiz/Jake Hagar and The Elite was Cody/Page/Matt Jackson.
The action was very good, with the heels and faces trading momentum. Some of the highlights were Cody tossing Ortiz into an obnoxious MJF at ringside, Hangman and Matt getting on the same page and almost hitting the IndieTaker, and that ending! The closing moments had Matt hitting the Triple Northern Lights homage to Eddie Guerrero’s Three Amigos. Then Hangman and Matt attempt an Indie Taker, but Ortiz pulls Adam to the floor. Allowing Santana to roll up Matt for the win.
Afterwards, a gloating Jericho cuts an ok promo. The proof that Chris Jericho feeds off a live crowd was present. However, Le Champion still cuts a promo better than most that have a live crowd. The Pain Maker taunts the Elite. Stating that not only they have the five on four advantage, but noe they have the entry advantage. Matt Jackson retorts with, “I have a friend that owes me a favor”.
Mind blown and afterthoughts.
He is here…
With me being confused for a second… a familiar sight returned. The sight of a drone… a drone named Vanguard1. That is right… the newest member of The Elite is BROKEN MATT HARDY!!! The camera cuts to the upper levels, with Broken Matt Hardy signaling the Delete gesture. The look on Chris Jericho’s face is a meme treasure, as he looks confused and scared. I wager, it took Jericho everything he had in not to break character. This was a fantastic debut that could’ve been a permanent memory if a live crowd was present. However, it did what it needed to do and still shocked the fans.
I do not want to sound like an AEW mark here, but what AEW aired compared to what WWE has, the difference is huge. I truly want a nice stable of promotions to be very successful, Because competition brings forth the best a promo can provide. The winners in the end is us fans. What AEW provided was small differences, like a crowd.. but worked better than WWE’s product.
There was actual wrestling throughout the show! Not a 90 minute replay of a PPV, then a bunch of promos and one or two matches. Letting the talent have fun as a crowd member gave AEW a unique atmosphere and allowed talent to shine, while not being in a match. With AEW’s set up for shows, I can bare a crowd-less show for a bit.-David G.
With all the happenings in the real world during recent times, NXT chose to not air any live matches. Instead, they went with a few video packages to keep stories alive. Everything with the brand seems to be on hold for the time being, so this may be the best thing for NXT. Let’s talk about what we saw on NXT this week.
Tom Phillips and Triple H are in the studio to go over what we’re going to see tonight in this most unique episode of NXT. Coming up, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa tell their years-long story of the ups and downs they’ve had, Finn Balor speaks, and Rhea Ripley hypes up her match against Charlotte at Wrestlemania.
Three years of moments.
Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa are interviewed in separate settings, talking about what has happened in the past three years. Starting with their WWE tryouts, the formation of DIY, the epic tag title match against The Revival in Toronto, the downfall of DIY in Chicago, all leading up to today. It’s a long video package, taking up a majority of the first hour. But it’s a great telling coming from the guys that lived it. Very well done.
Into the mind of the Prince.
Finn Balor talks about his history in NXT, facing the the likes of Shinsuke Nakamura, Kevin Owens, and Samoa Joe. Balor continuously refers to himself at the “Best wrestler in the world”. On to being drafted to Raw, becoming the first ever Universal Champion, and having to relinquish the title due to injury. Finn isn’t upset; he just proved he’s the best.
Nine months of rehab, and he returns, only to find that the atmosphere has changed. Finn says that putting him into matches with anyone (Jinder Mahal, Baron Corbin, Bobby Lashley) and they have the best match of their career. He’s the common denominator. The match Finn had with Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble brought the passion back. Finn realized what he was missing, and he needed to wrestle in NXT.
Balor talks about not needing to please anyone but himself. He says it’s been too long that he’s been worried about everyone else. Now it’s time to take care of himself. It’s not about going back to NXT, it’s about going back to bing the best wrestler in the world.
Love the passion we hear from Balor. So nice to see that fire in his eyes once again. The Prince is here!
The Evolution of the Nightmare.
Next up, we take an in-depth look at the rise of Rhea Ripley. Going all the way back to her debut at the Mae Young Classic, seeing a different look from Rhea that we have now. Rhea talks about wanting to please everyone, and being compared to the likes of Charlotte, Toni Storm, and even Lana. She says at the second Mae Young Classic, she would do everything on her own terms.
Going into the NXT UK Women’s Championship Tournament, she was out to prove that he belonged at the top. Rhea says everyone expected Toni Storm to win, and that she had everyone where she wanted them. We go through her NXT UK dominance for over a year, with minimal competition. Meanwhile, Shayna Baszler is dominating on NXT. Rhea decides this is her chance to shine.
Flash forward through the end of 2019, and we relive the moments where Rhea shined: winning a triple threat on Smackdown by pinning Charlotte, overcoming the odds at War Games, and captaining Team NXT at Survivor Series. Rhea says one thing is missing: Rhea Ripley, NXT Women’s Champion. Going into the match against Baszler, Rhea was the hottest thing going, and that momentum carried her to win the title.
Rhea says being at the Royal Rumble, seeing Charlotte coming out on top, she knew that she wanted to challenge the Queen. No one wants to see Charlotte vs. Becky again. No one wants to see Charlotte vs. Bayley. Know what they haven’t seen? Charlotte vs. Rhea Ripley. To be the best, you have to beat the best.
NXT did the best thing they could do by bringing us some very in-depth perspectives into the biggest rivalries they have going for their brand. I loved the telling of the history of Gargano vs. Ciampa. Lots of backstory there, with their history as both best friends and bitter rivals. The package with Finn Balor was great as well, explaining his return to the brand. Rhea Ripley hyping up her match against Charlotte was well done, continuing to build to what is sure to be a Wrestlemania that we will never forget.
There’s so much uncertainty as to what NXT will bring to us in the coming weeks. I don’t see them putting on any live matches anytime soon, so expect to see more hype videos in the next couple of episodes as we are only two weeks away from Wrestlemania. – Josh L.
Friday Night SmackDown:
This week on SmackDown, another replay of a past match. Promos, contract signings and a match. Actually a damn good match. However, WWE is still paying the replay game and not innovating. So let’s dive into the latest offering from WWE while in this world in a pandemic.
Gronk arrives. A stellar match. Paige arrives.
The host with the most.
Michael Cole starts the show off by restating that WrestleMania 36 will take place over two days for the first time in history. Anyone living above a rock and under it under knows why. However, Vince loves to insult the public’s intelligence and has Cole states that it is too big for one night. Really Vince? It is one thing to insult the smarks, but to insult the overall audience? Ok, you do you. Anyways, Gronk is introduced as the host of Mania by Cole and has his bro moment with Mojo Rawley. Overall, this was just awful.. no emotion and packed full of corporate selling.
Daniel Bryan/Drew Gulak vs Cesaro/Shinsuke Nakamura. Bryan wins via Sunset Flip pin fall.
These four men had a damn fantastic showing, live crowd not needed. It’s just goes to show that, WWE has slipped up on them, like you needed any further proof. The precision and techniques that they displayed was fantastic. This was especially great for Drew Gulak, since he was kind of debut as a jobber on SmackDown. Not only did Bryan, Cesaro, and Shin looked great.. but they helped elevate Drew Gulak’s stock on the mainstream weekly airings.
Paige announces a match for WrestleMania.
Michael Cole sets up an interview via Skype with Paige. However, The Boss Sasha Banks and the SmackDown Women’s champion Bayley interrupts. A banter between Bayley and Paige ensues and Bayley states that Paige can not wrestle anymore. Well, there goes that prediction. So what does Paige do? Paige makes a match like is if she was still Commissioner of SmackDown. I know, confusing.
The former champion lists of all the wrestlers that Bayley will have to face for her championship. The list includes Lacey Evans, Dana Brooks, Tamina, Naomi, and lastly Sasha Banks. The joke the Bayley said about if Tamina even still working at WWE was funny, but again this fell flat. Why can Paige make a match for a title at Mania and not be an authority figure? Anyways, I predict we will have a new SmackDown champion at Mania, probably Naomi or Banks.
Replay time! Another live match! The contract signing.
Replay from six years ago.
This time, the WWE time machine digs up a match that Bray Wyatt claims was the birth of THe Fiend. The match was WrestleMania 30.. Cena vs Wyatt. A match that was pretty good, only to be spiked by the way Vince loves Cena, and the burial of Wyatt.. again. Again, this was filled with commercial breaks and extended the original run time. Sigh, WWE… we all know you have the greatest collection of matches. You don’t have to replay it when you don’t have content.
Miz/Morrison vs Heavey Machinery. Miz/Morrison win via disqualification.
Fun match, bad story telling. This was probably the only way for WWE to attempt to recoup the loss of one of the best stories on SmackDown. The story of Otis/Mandy Rose/and Dolph Ziggler. While Miz and Morrison were fantastic in the match. This was best suited for a crowd. I know you are tired of me saying this. However, as content creator wouldn’t you want to experiment on something that doesn’t have to have a crowd reaction?
Near the end, Dolph posted some pictures of himself and Rose on the big screen. That sent Otis in a rage, Tucker tried to talk him out of the rage. Alas, it was not enough and Otis demolished Miz and Morrison with a steel chair. Effective story telling, bad atmosphere.
The end of the night.
To close the show, WWE had the contract signing between Roman Reigns and Bill Goldberg. Micheal Cole was the moderator for the signing and asked questions to Roman and Bill. Reigns states that every big name he challenged, he won.. fair enough Roman.. you have. Bill Goldberg retorted with that he has been “headbutting doors around the world”.
Umm, Bill.. did you forget that you gave yourself a concussion the last time you did that? Hey Bill, how about the time you decided to punch a real car window, lacerating your arm and delayed a story line? Oh well, Goldberg did what few can do, make Roman look like a god on the mic. They both signed the contract and stare each other down. No fights, no broken tables, no spears… just disappointment.
I honestly thought WWE would’ve kept an eye on their competition this week. Even though WWE had a head start without a live crowd, WWE has been surpassed in viewing enjoyment. I understand that three hours is super tough to fill. However, WWE had two, two hour shows to experiment with. What did they give the fans? The same old same. Replays that eat up half the show, promos, and a match or two. It seems that WWE does not know what to do without a crowd, but others seems to adapt.-David G.
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