Best WWE Intercontinental Champions of the Last Decade: The Miz by Jake Thomas

Coming off a career-best year in 2011, The Miz was at a bit of a crossroads. It would be tough for any wrestler to top main eventing Wrestlemania or main-eventing Survivor Series against The Rock and John Cena, but Miz was in an unusual position. Despite being pushed heavily, the WWE brass had begun to lose faith in Miz. Rumors of him being viewed as someone who the higher-ups had “soured on” on at the time For any other wrestler, that could’ve been the end. But through hard work and talent, Miz did more than simply turn his career around, but would also help to elevate the IC Title and follow on from the work of Cody Rhodes.

Although he was still featured prominently on TV, his booking would reflect the idea he was looked upon less fondly, as he would feature in a 20-match losing streak in the early parts of 2012. It wasn’t until picking up the win for Team Johnny at Wrestlemania 28 in a twelve-man tag match would he finally get his win. This wouldn’t signify a change in fortune for The Miz however as he would languish in the midcard before taking a two-month break. Miz would return at Money in the Bank, before making the biggest move of his career since his WWE Title win, winning the Intercontinental Championship on RAW 1000 in a match against Christian. Little did we know at the time, this would be the beginning of many reigns of one of the greatest IC Champions of the decade.

The first couple of reigns Miz had with the Intercontinental Championship were average at best or too short to be ranked. A title defense against Rey Mysterio and in a fatal 4 way at Night of Champions would be the highlights of Miz’s first reign before dropping the title to Kofi Kingston on the premiere edition of Main Event. This was before the present format Main Event when Main Event was viewed as an important show for the company, rather than a place for underutilized talents to ply their trade.

The next IC Title reign was rather controversial, as Miz had recently turned face. Many viewed this as out of character for Miz and he wasn’t able to get over as a babyface. The truth was that his character didn’t really change upon becoming a face, unlike today where Miz is a family man with a wife and kids, he was still an annoying trash talker. He defeated Wade Barrett to win the IC Title in the Wrestlemania 29 Pre-show in 2013, but lost the title immediately on RAW the night after Wrestlemania.

As you can see, the first two reigns of The Miz weren’t great. Whilst the first wasn’t horrible, the second was too short to be viewed as anything more substandard. Miz would have a difficult rest of 2013 and early 2014, staying out of the main event picture and being largely relegated to the lower mid-card. As what happened earlier, a two-month break to film Marine 4 would again result in positive change for The Miz. Miz would turn heel again upon his return, but would also play up being a big Hollywood story and “The A-Lister” persona. Miz would begin a feud with Ziggler (not the famous one), who he would trade the belt with back and forth after winning the vacant title at Battleground. This would last until the night after Night of Champions, losing the belt to Ziggler for the final time.

Whilst these reigns weren’t long, they produced two things: Quality matches, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering he was wrestling someone like Dolph Ziggler. But the important one, would be the birth of the Damien Mizdow character. Sandow, who had been impersonating different people for weeks, became the stunt double for Miz, which would lead to a long term feud which would result in getting Sandow even more over than he was in the process. Whilst the ending disappointed a lot of people, without the IC Title, the storyline would never have happened.

Miz wouldn’t smell the IC Title again until around Wrestlemania 32 in 2016, when he was an entrant in the IC Title Ladder Match. Unbeknownst to us at the time, Miz was originally booked to win the match and take the title. However, a push from Miz thought to give the title to Zack Ryder, who was a late entrant in place of an injured Neville (PAC), would make for a far greater story and match. It wouldn’t take Miz long to gain the title, as he would beat Ryder the night after WrestleMania to win the title. This was notable though, as Miz introduced a new part to his act, his wife Maryse. From this point on, all of Miz’s IC Title reigns would be pure quality.

His fifth reign would last 188 days, but the quality of matches and storylines would be what stood out in arguably one of his best runs with the title. Not only did he have classics like the Fatal 4 Way against Owens, Zayn and Cesaro at Extreme Rules, but his storyline with the then-retired Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler was one of the best storylines to come out of the new brand extension in the summer of 2016.

The Miz’s promo on Talking Smack is still regarded as one of the best promos in the modern era. He and Ziggler would trade the belt, contesting in epic matches against each other, including at No Mercy 2016 where Ziggler’s career was on the line. It speaks to the strength of the storyline that many considered that there was a real possibility that Ziggler would retire and transition to a backstage role. Miz would lose the title to Ambrose at the start of the year, but wouldn’t last long without it as he would regain the title months later at Extreme Rules in June 2017 after being drafted to RAW.

The thing about Miz and his IC Title reigns were that the stories involved were not only interesting, but he was treated like a top guy when holding the title. Plus, considering Brock Lesnar was Universal Champion around that time and only appeared sporadically, Miz was the top singles champion on RAW. His title feud with Roman Reigns would further prove this, as he would both lose then regain the title from Reigns, bringing up reign #8. While these reigns weren’t necessarily the longest IC Title reigns, nothing The Miz did with the title was bad. His last match as IC Champion at Wrestlemania 34 was one of the best Wrestlemania opening matches, against Finn Balor and Seth Rollins, dropping the title to Rollins.

The Miz and the Intercontinental Championship were just a great fit for one another throughout the 2010s. The Miz has the second most reigns as the IC Champion with eight (behind Chris Jericho’s nine) and is just 22 days behind Pedro Morales for the most days as IC Champion.

To this day, if the IC Title needed someone to help boost its status, The Miz would be the first person the WWE would turn to. Miz has created many amazing moments with the title, far more than many in the last decade. Hopefully, we haven’t seen the last of Miz and the IC Title, but I doubt we have.

The post Best WWE Intercontinental Champions of the Last Decade: The Miz by Jake Thomas appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

The WWE Smackdown Reaction for 1/17/20 by Kelly Dishnow

Welcome to The Smackdown Reaction, where I offer my take on this week’s show from Greensboro, NC. You can check out John’s full in-depth report here.

We start things off with the Smackdown intro and pyro before Kane makes his way to the ring. Kane cuts a decent promo on the upcoming Royal Rumble before being interrupted by The Firefly Fun House. Wyatt cuts a quick promo before the lights go out in the arena to signal The Fiend’s appearance. Kane was waiting for him and Daniel Bryan attacked The Fiend before he could retreat down the hole in the ring. Bryan pulled on Fiend and go some hair before he was able to escape. When we get back from break, Kane and Bryan are backstage with Kayla Braxton and Bryan issues a challenge for a Strap Match at the Rumble.

Our first match of the night has Big E taking on John Morrison in his first WWE match in eight years. We get a decent back and forth match while commentary fills in the background of Morrison for those who have not seen him before. Side note, I’m not sure what happened to Kofi’s head, but it wasn’t pretty. The finish was set up with Miz distracting Big E so Morrison could get the upper hand and land Starship Pain for the pinfall. We will likely see a tag title match coming soon between the two teams, likely after the Rumble.

We get a quick video package with the history for tonight’s table match and promo from Roman Reigns before heading into a break.

The Usos had their match against The Revival. The match was as good as expected for the little amount of time they were given. The Usos picked up the win in this short match.

Kayla caught up to The Revival about their match. The Revival started to cut a promo on tag team wrestling when the cameraman bailed to catch the fight down the hall between Lacey Evans, Sasha Banks, and Bayley. It is broken up quickly and Sasha is holding her ankle.

Quick recap on the Otis/Mandy Rose happens from last week before a quick promo from Fire and Desire with Sonya asking Mandy to have Otis come out for her match against Alexa Bliss later.

Back in the Trainer’s Room, we find Sasha icing her ankle down talking to Bayley about what Lacey just did. (Smackdown GM) Adam Pearce shows up and told Sasha that her match with Lacey was still on tonight, but Bayley was taking her place. The girls are upset and Pearce tells Bayley the match is not for the title but it is next. Can we just make him the Smackdown GM and use him like NXT does with Regal? Shows up only when needed to progress an angle. He’s done that several times in the past couple of weeks now.

Bayley is coming out by herself for her match with Lacey. The match was pretty good as the fans are buying the Lacey face turn. Bayley still seems to be struggling a bit with the heel turn. Lacey wins the competitive match after Big Showing Bayley with the Woman’s Right.

We go backstage and find out that Kayla Braxton has been cloned into Alyse Ashton (really?) to interview Shorty G about Sheamus. Gable cuts a quick promo and Sheamus shows up to make more short jokes, although the height difference is not that significant as compared to Corbin. A quick scrum between the two gets broken up to send us to break.

Back from break and the real Kayla Braxton is interviewing Braun Strowman about his desire for an Intercontinental title match anytime and anywhere.

Elias is in the ring for a song only to be interrupted by Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Cesaro. Zayn addresses the Strowman challenge by saying no. Zayn and company go to leave Elias to do whatever and Elias starts to sing a song about the trio. Cesaro runs down to the ring to attack Elias before Nakamura and Zayn join in. Strowman comes to the ring to help out Elias. Zayn bails and Strowman tosses Nakamura and Cesaro out of the ring, Royal Rumble style. We can pencil in the tag match for next week.

A nice video tribute to The Rock’s father, Rocky Johnson, plays to honor his passing on Wednesday.

Sonya Deville was in the ring with Mandy Rose waiting for Alexa Bliss to come out with Nikki Cross. Heavy Machinery comes out after the match started and Otis would catch a falling Mandy to allow Alexa to roll up the distracted Sonya for the win in what felt like an angle more than a match.

Quick Royal Rumble preview leads us to the main event, Roman Reigns versus Robert Roode in a Tables Match. The winner gets to pick the Reigns/Corbin match stipulation for the Royal Rumble. Roman and Roode have a really good match before Corbin and Dolph Ziggler show up as expected. Roman gets triple-teamed before The Usos show up on the delay run-in. The Usos take out all three with superkicks before putting Ziggler through the announce desk with a double splash off the barricade. Corbin, like usual, had run away so Roman could spear Roode through the table for the win. After the match, Roman picks the stipulation of Falls Count Anywhere to close out the show.

Let’s look at tonight’s highs and lows:

The Highs

Outside of the Sonya/Bliss angle match, there was really decent in-ring action this week. The Table match and Big E/Morrison were pretty solid contests.

Effective use of Adam Pearce again as the “authorityish figure” to set up the Bayley/Lacey match. This should be a good role for him going forward, as long as they don’t overdo it like they usually do.

The Lows

The Usos/Revival match was just too short this week. It was a really good match for the time given, but it would have been better with some extra time.

==

That’s all I’ve got this week, until next time.

The post The WWE Smackdown Reaction for 1/17/20 by Kelly Dishnow appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

5-Star Match Reviews: Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 11, by Alex Podgorski

Oh boy, here we go. This is THE most-talked about wrestling match of the past decade. When it happened, everyone was talking about it like it was the new standard bearer for all future wrestling matches. It was an anomaly, a spectacle, a legendary performance. It was so good that it officially ‘broke the scale’ and was awarded six stars out of five by Dave Meltzer in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Only one televised match had gotten that rating beforehand, and that was back in 1994.

This is the match that got the whole world talking and brought considerable international exposure to New Japan Pro-Wrestling. It’s the first in a series of four legendary matches: Omega vs. Okada I.

This match took place on January 4, 2017, at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan.

As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.

The story here is simple. Omega won the 2016 G1 Climax tournament, becoming the first foreigner to do so. His main event push began earlier when he ousted AJ Styles from the Bullet Club in early 2016 and gradually rose to the top thereafter. Meanwhile, Okada was on a roll in his fourth run as IWGP Heavyweight Champion and was taking on all-comers.

They do ring entrances and Omega’s opens with a shot-for-shot remake of the first Terminator film, with him playing the role of Arnold. As his video ends, it shows the line “New Legend is About to Begin”. Truer words have never been spoken. Omega appears with a half-face terminator-style mask and fake shotgun, looking totally badass. Meanwhile, Okada comes down and it is literally raining Okada dollars. He pauses before entering the ring because he knows how big this match is going to be. Omega shows some subtle storytelling by crunching a piece of Okada money and tossing it at Okada.

The match

The match starts with a long stare-down and some fake out attempts at a Greco-Roman knuckle lock. They begin chain grappling and Omega stars wrenching Okada’s arm. Okada with a leg takedown but Omega reverses into a cross armbreaker attempt. Some quick transitions occur and Okada cinches in a grounded side headlock. Omega tries to pin but Okada gets up before the ref can even count one. Omega pulls Okada’s hair to escape the headlock and continues attacking the arm and the neck. They trade strikes for a bit before Omega locks in a headlock of his own and refuses to let go, even as Okada back suplexes him. Okada tries the headlocked suplex again but Omega escapes.

An Irish whip reversal occurs and Okada tries to send Omega into the turnbuckle but Omega kicks him away and does a springboard sunset flip attempt, but Okada blocks it and does a jackknife pin for two, but Omega powers out to everyone’s amazement and does a backslide for a two-count of his own. I love the way Omega drags his feet and ‘runs in place’ to put extra force into his pin. They get up and Okada hits two hip tosses followed by an armlock, but it gets broken in the ropes at the five-minute-mark.

Okada taps on Omega mockingly and taunts him. Okada answers an Irish whip with a huge shoulder block. Omega ducks a big boot and whips Omega into the corner again. He looks like he’s going to do the top-rope dropkick but Omega kicks Okada away. Omega teases the One-Winged Angel (OWA), but Okada escapes and tries the Rainmaker lariat, which Omega breaks from and spits on Okada and mocks him by doing his own rainmaker taunt. Omega does out of the ring to recover as the Young Bucks cheer him on. Omega stalls ringside until Okada comes after him, and after ducking some moves Omega runs into a huge big boot from Okada. Snapmare by Okada followed by a huge and very loud dropkick to Omega’s head.

They both go out of the ring and Okada whips Omega hard into the steel ring barricade. Okada tries a running kick but Omega catches him and teases a vertical suplex onto the barricade, but Okada reverses that into a huge Randy Orton-style draping DDT from the barricade onto the ringside mats. As Omega recovers, Okada brings out a table. After a brief struggle, Omega tries to throw Okada over the barricade but Okada reverses that sending Omega over the barricade instead. Then Okada hits a huge running crossbody over the barricade onto Okada at the ten-minute mark.

Okada’s in control back in the ring and slams Omega then hits a senton atomico for a one-count. Okada locks in a chinlock with his knee deep in Omega’s back. Omega struggles to escape, so Omega hits a swinging neckbreaker for a two-count. Omega fights back with forearms then gets a second wind and hits a dropkick to Okada’s knee followed by a jumping legdrop bulldog for two. Omega stomps away on Okada and then hits a brutal chop to Okada’s chest once he’s standing followed by a forearm to the back. Omega slams Okada and tries a great Muta-style flashing elbow but Okada dodges and tries a senton but Omega dodges that, so Omega throws him into the ropes and hits another forearm to the back for a two-count. Omega tries to hit the forearm again but Okada blocks it and charges but eats a knee to the gut from Omega instead. Omega attempts Aoi Shoudou (cross-legged fisherman buster) but Okada kicks his way out of it, only to walk into a snap hurricanrana at the fifteen-minute mark.

Okada rolls out of the ring as Omega rises like the terminator. Omega runs and hits an enormous suicide dive that makes the Undertaker’s look weak by comparison. Omega’s in control as he scoop slams Okada onto the ring apron and he lands right on the spot Omega hit with his earlier forearm strikes. He rolls Okada into the ring and then Omega hits a huge diving dropkick to the back of Okada’s head. Wow, that looked vicious. It almost looked like Okada got whiplash, that’s how his head snapped from the impact. Omega goes for a pin but Okada grabs the bottom rope, much to Omega’s frustration. Omega goes for another pin but Okada kicks out. Omega drags Okada to the middle of the ring and applies a modified chinlock that Omega keeps locked in until the ref makes him break the hold at the ropes.

Omega teases a powerbomb but Okada won’t go up do Omega strikes his head some more. Omega tries to knee Okada in the head but Okada grabs his leg, hoists him onto his shoulders and hits a Heavy Rain neckbreaker slam that closely resembles an Attitude Adjustment. They both get up after a while and Okada begins his comeback with running forearm strikes, followed by a DDT and a Shawn Michaels-style kip-up. A basement forearm smash gets another two-count for Okada.

Omega begins a comeback of his own at the twenty-minute mark but walks into a flapjack from Okada. Okada locks in the Red Rink submission hold and Omega looks like he’s fading until he gets a sudden burst of strength that slows him to reach the rope and break the hold. Omega charges Okada but walks into a tombstone attempt, but Omega struggles so Okada reverses that into the Reverse Neckbreaker to the knee. The fans – who have been pretty vocal for a Japanese crowd so far – are starting to come unglued.

Okada ascends the top rope and tries the diving elbow drop but Omega gets his knees up at the last second. Omega hits a single-knee pumphandle backbreaker and Okada rolls out of the ring, so Omega hits a running baseball slide dropkick to the back of Okada’s head, which sends Okada over the barricade towards the announcer’s table. In the ring, Omega has a devilish grin on his face as he signals to the crowd that something’s coming. As soon as Okada’s back on his feet, Omega springboards onto the top rope and hits an Asai moonsault over the barricade onto Okada. Holy shit, what a move.

Omega recovers in the ring as the ref begins the ring count. Okada struggles to make it back, so Omega puts the table on a supine Okada and hits a diving foot stomp from the apron onto the table (and Okada). Wow, that was nuts. Omega tosses Okada back into the ring and hits a kneeling powerbomb for another two-count. Still in control, Omega deadlifts Okada and hits the Dr. Wily Bomb for a 2.8-count. Meanwhile, the Young Bucks, who are still ringside, setup the table from earlier. Omega teases using the table but he struggles to get Okada into position for it, so Omega stomps and knee strikes Okada instead. He whips Okada into a corner and charges but Okada boots him in the face and tries to gain some momentum, but Omega reverses this into the ‘you can’t escape’ fireman’s carry slam/moonsault combo for another 2.8-count. Omega smiles devilishly as he tries the dragon suplex, but Okada keeps escaping it. Okada dodges a corner charge and puts Omega onto the top turnbuckle and dropkicks him out of the ring.

Okada’s in control now as he lifts Omega onto his shoulders and teases throwing him into the table, but Omega reverses that and tries the OWA into the table, but again Okada powers out. Omega tries a springboard move but Okada catches him on his shoulders Cena-style, but Omega reverses and keeps fighting, until he tries a running charge but Okada back body drops him over the rope, out of the ring and through the table. Good God, what a move. Omega landed so hard he cut a massive hole into that table. The Young Bucks are with Omega warning him about the referee’s count. Then Okada comes out (presumably because he wants the satisfaction of actually pinning Omega) and drags Omega back into the ring. Then Okada perches himself on the top rope and hits an enormous diving shotgun dropckick to Omega’s chest. Wow, Omega was hit so hard he flipped backwards. Okada pins but gets a two-count as the crowd awakens again.

Okada hits the diving elbow drop followed by his rainmaker pose. Okada sets up the Rainmaker lariat but Omega reaches the ropes. You can hear the Young Bucks will Omega on. Okada tries the Rainmaker again but Omega ducks and pushes him into the corner. Omega tries to lift Okada onto the top turnbuckle but Okada’s holding on for dear life. Omega looks to be spent as we reach the thirty-five-minute mark.

Omega slaps the hell out of Okada and places him on the top turnbuckle and teases some move but Okada powers out. A frustrated Omega continues to hammer away at Okada’s lower back. Then, with all the strength he has left, Omega joins Okada on the top rope and hits a dragon suplex from the top rope. Sweet Jesus, Okada landed right on his neck. And yet somehow, Okada STILL kicks out at 2.8.

Omega continues attacking Okada’s neck with the Aoi Shoudou and charges for a V-Trigger, but Okada dodges and hits a German suplex and tries the Rainmaker again, but Omega dodges and hits a V-Trigger knee against the ropes and goes for another, but somehow Okada musters enough strength to his hit perfect standing dropkick. Now both men are down. Okada tries the Rainmaker for the fourth time but Omega kicks his arm away but Okada blocks one V-Trigger, but can’t block a second one, and then Omega hits a Poisoned Frankensteiner, dropping Okada on his head again. Omega does the bullet club taunt and hits the V-Trigger knee again. Omega hoists Okada onto his shoulders, hooks the head and lands the One-Winged Ang—no, Okada jumps out of it. Okada attempts a V-Trigger again but Okada catches him and drops Omega with a Tombstone! Rainmaker pose! Okada hooks the wrist! Rainmaker! That’s it! Match over!  Cue the ‘they killed Kenny’ jokes.

The referee counts one…two…thr—NO! Omega kicks out! Omega kicks out! Incredible! How did he do that?! The crowd has exploded and I agree with them. Okada stares into space with a look of concern as we reach the forty-minute mark.

Omega is still down, selling the rainmaker as if it had just crushed his windpipe. Okada takes a long time to grab omega by the hair to pick him up, but Omega starts fighting back. Okada has had enough of this and dropkicks Omega so hard he goes flying across the ring into the opposite corner. The fans in the arena are on their feet. Okada picks up Omega slowly for the Tombstone, but Omega powers out and reverses it into a double cradle piledriver of his own but that gets a 2.9-count. Both of them are on their knees and start brawling with each other. They keep brawling until they’re both standing. Neither man wants to show anymore weakness. Fighting spirit! Then out of nowhere, Omega ducks a forearm and hits a snap dragon suplex followed by a V-Trigger shortly thereafter, but that also only gets 2.9. Omega hits another V-Trigger to Okada and lifts him for the OWA yet again, but Okada holds on while on Omega’s shoulders, refusing to let Omega wrap his arm around his neck. Okada struggles until he falls off and lands on his feet and lands a huge Rainmaker lariat.

Both men are down as Okada crawls slowly towards Omega. He grabs the wrist again and prepares for another Rainmaker but omega kicks his lariat arm away. Okada maintains wrist control as Omega kicks away at Okada’s head and brutalizes Okada with three V-Trigger-like knees to the side of the head. But Okada still has plenty of fighting spirit left and hits a third Rainmaker lariat onto Omega. Okada then goes for his fourth Rainmaker but Omega ducks it, then Omega tries his own Rainmaker but Okada ducks that. Okada goes for a Tombstone but Omega escapes, so Okada charges and runs into a standing dropkick from Omega, who then does the Rainmaker pose to Okada. Then Omega grabs the wrist and hits a Rain-Trigger knee. Wow, that was brutal. Omega tries the OWA YET AGAIN, but Okada reverses it into a spinning Tombstone piledriver, and then delivers a fourth and massive Rainmaker lariat. The referee counts one…two…three! That’s it! The match is over!

The camera pans to the crowd and there are fans with tears in their eyes! The fans give both wrestlers a standing ovation.

Winner and still IWGP Heavyweight Champion after 48:25: Kazuchika Okada

Review

HOLY SHIT! THAT WAS SPECTACULAR! That did indeed live up to the hype. They more than delivered. Okada and Omega put on an instant classic that set a new standard for main event, world title matches. The story in this match was beautiful. It was a well-crafted tale of teases, reversals, kick-out sequences, and above all, insane toughness. This is a classic made of the same structure as the All Japan Pro-Wrestling classics of the 1990s. Everything in the opening minutes was done to establish dominance, followed by a lengthy weakening segment, and finally a long and insanely dramatic closing sequence that left the fans on the edge of their seats.

There was also an underlying story that demonstrates perfectly how to craft an intricate wrestling story through showing without telling. Omega was the underdog in this match challenging the champion and company ace. Omega took absolutely everything from Okada; it took Okada hitting every single one of his biggest moves – including four of his killer rainmaker lariats – to keep Omega down for the count. But Omega never hit his ultimate finisher, the One-Winged Angel. Omega teased it several times but Okada fought out of it on every occasion. At the time of this match – and at the time of this writing – no one in NJPW has ever kicked out of the OWA. If Omega hit that move in this match, it would’ve led to a different ending. But we didn’t see that move hit, which leaves the door open for a rematch down the road.

The final ten minutes were of the best moments ever seen in a wrestling ring. Everything after the top rope dragon suplex was insane. So much unpredictability, so many reversals and counter-reversals, you never knew when or how the match would end. And unlike in WWE, in which a roll-up would be seen as a weak finisher, in this match Omega and Okada had demolished each other so badly that a simple roll-up or cradle could be believable as a finisher.

I only have on real gripe with this match, and that’s Omega’s selling of exhaustion. Omega was on offense more than Okada in this match, yet he took his fair share of insane moves. Yet whenever Okada went for his running strikes – especially his V-trigger – he’d move around with the same energy and speed as he had earlier in the match when he had taken less damage. It made him look like he was barely in pain, despite taking an inhuman amount of punishment. Had he moved more slowly later on in the match, Okada’s offense would’ve looked more brutal and would’ve made Omega’s exhaustion feel more real.

But that minor gripe doesn’t take away from what is arguably the best match in Wrestle Kingdom history.

Final Rating: *****

I don’t think it’s proper to rate anything on a 5-star scale beyond five stars. This was a perfect wrestling match and deserves all the praise that was heaped on it and on the wrestlers involved. This was simply outstanding, especially in the final ten minutes. These two had awesome chemistry and it showed in how well they knew each other’s big moves and how to try and steal them as well. If you want to watch a clinic on how to craft an unpredictable wrestling contest filled to the brim with believable near-falls, watch this contest. It serves as a template on how to do that and more. Highest recommendation possible.

Thanks for reading. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.

The post 5-Star Match Reviews: Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 11, by Alex Podgorski appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

Top 10 Wrestling Stories of the Week 1/16: AEW Dynamite Extended, Murphy Joins Rollins and AOP on WWE Raw, More

Welcome back TJR readers. Did you spend all week in a bomb shelter waiting for the big one from Iran and miss Smackdown? Possibly you were rocking out to Rush albums to mourn the loss of Neil Peart and missed RAW. Whatever the reason you missed wrestling this week, The Top Ten Wrestling Stories of the Week have returned to catch you all up.

10. Tessa Blanchard Wins Impact Wrestling Heavyweight Championship 

It was a week of highs and lows for Impact Wrestling’s Tessa Blanchard. After getting called out by several other female wrestlers for bullying and using racial slurs on Friday, Blanchard made history Saturday night by becoming the first woman to win the Impact Wrestling Heavyweight Championship.  Blanchard, who is the daughter of WWE Hall of Famer Tully Blanchard, won the title by defeating Sami Callihan in the main event of the Impact Wrestling show Hard to Kill. No matter what poor decisions Blanchard has made in the past, becoming the first woman to win a title that has been held by the likes of AJ Styles, Kurt Angle and Sting is a huge accomplishment for women everywhere. Let’s hope that this push for women’s equality turns out to be as Hard to Kill as Impact Wrestling has been.

9. New WWE Series Fight Like a Girl Debuting on QUIBI Streaming Service

Just in case you thought there wasn’t enough WWE programming on television as is, a new series featuring WWE Superstars was announced this week. The series will feature Stephanie McMahon and several members of the WWE women’s roster in a new show called Fight Like a Girl on the QUIBI streaming service.  Stephanie McMahon will be featured as she pairs a struggling young woman with a different female WWE Superstar every week. The superstar will help the young woman overcome the obstacles in their lives, helping them become stronger and more confident. Luckily the WWE didn’t try to air this show during the “Divas” era, or Fight Like a Girl would have aired for three minutes during the bathroom break. (TJRWrestling)

8. Bianca Belair Becomes the Number One Contender for the NXT Women’s  Title

NXT held an 18 women battle royal last night to crown a new number one contender for the NXT Women’s Title. Bianca Belair ended up outlasting everyone else and will now go on to face Champion Rhea Ripley at NXT Takeover Portland. Belair is hoping that the third time is the charm as she competed for the NXT Women’s Title at two different Takeovers last year. If Belair once again fails to capture the title, perhaps Stephanie McMahon can pair her up with a WWE Superstar to show her how to overcome adversity and Fight like a Girl. (TJRWrestling)

7.  David Benoit Planning on Becoming a Wrestler

There is no name that is more controversial or loathed in the wrestling world than Chris Benoit, with the WWE doing whatever it can to try to erase it from history entirely. Forgetting about Benoit may become much harder, however, if his oldest son David has his way. Chris Benoit’s now 27 year-old-son David plans to begin training to become a wrestler, with the hopes of working for AEW. David plans on going by the moniker Chris Benoit Jr., even going as far as having similar tights as his father’s made. Trying to honor the memory of his father is a noble cause, but David may have an easier path in the wrestling world if he chooses a less controversial name, such as Paul Levesque Jr. (TJRWrestling)

6. Diamond Dallas Page Returns to the Ring on AEW: Dynamite 

AEW Dynamite had their Bash at the Beach special last night, bringing in one of WCW’s legendary stars to compete at it. Sixty-three year old Diamond Dallas Page teamed up with QT Marshall and the 50-year-old Dustin Rhodes to face the team of The Butcher, The Blade and MJF. Page’s team, who’s combined age was a 137, ended up losing the match when Marshall was quickly rolled up by MJF for the pin. This may not be the last we see of Page, however, as he may be brought back if AEW ever does The Great Geriatric Bash. (TJRWrestling)

5. Robert Roode Returns to Help King Corbin on Smackdown

Robert Roode returned from his 30-day wellness violation suspension this past Friday on Smackdown to help King Corbin and Dolph Ziggler lay out Roman Reigns and The Usos at the end of the show. Reigns will now go on to face Roode this week on Smackdown in a tables match, before doing double duty at the Rumble when he both faces King Corbin and competes in the Rumble match itself. Roode will also enter the Rumble, but will not be a threat to win of course, unless he draws number 30 or somehow gains 200lbs. (TJRWrestling)

4. Brock Lesnar attacks R-Truth on RAW

Brock Lesnar and his advocate, Paul Heyman, came out on RAW to promote Lesnar’s entry in the Royal Rumble match. After Heyman spent several minutes promoting Lesnar, he and Lesnar were surprisingly interrupted by the often forgotten 24/7 champion R Truth. Truth then gave a hilarious in-ring promo which included threatening to eliminate Heyman from the Rumble match, before Lesnar finally had heard enough and brutally attacked Truth. Mojo Rawley then came out and took advantage of the injured Truth and pinned him to end Truth’s 30th 24/7 title reign. Lesnar briefly teased taking the 24/7 title for himself before laughing and throwing it down, depriving the WWE Universe of the opportunity of “Brocky Two Belts.” (TJRWrestling)

3. WWE Hall of Famer Rocky Johnson Passes Away at the Age of 75

WWE Hall of Famer Rocky Johnson has passed away at the age of 75. Johnson was a pioneer in the wrestling business having many amazing accolades including being the first African American WWF Tag Team Champion with Tony Atlas. If Johnson’s own accolades didn’t leave enough of an imprint on the wrestling world, he also fathered one of the biggest stars in the world, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. It is clear that if Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson truly is “The Great One” that he was passed down that moniker by his father. (TJRWrestling)

2. Buddy Murphy Joins Seth Rollins and AOP

After once again losing to Aleister Black on RAW this week, Buddy Murphy stayed by the ringside barrier clearly distraught. Murphy stayed there until the end of the “Fist Fight” match between Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe and The Big Show versus AOP and Seth Rollins, when Murphy suddenly assisted Rollins and AOP to help them win the match. Rollins then all came together at the end of RAW to form a yet to be named faction. Buddy Murphy, Rezar, Akam and Seth. (TJRWrestling)

1. AEW and WarnerMedia Extend Dynamite Contract Through 2023, Announce Plans for Second Show

Any fears that wrestling fans had that the Wednesday Night Wars between AEW and NXT would be over quickly, were put to rest this week. WarnerMedia has agreed to a $175 million, four-year extension of AEW’s television contract with TNT, as well as plans to debut a second weekly hour long show very soon.  AEW Dynamite has been very successful since debuting last October, with an average of 1.2 million viewers when you take DVR numbers into account.  NXT and AEW have both said in the past that the war between them is a marathon and not a sprint, clearly with this announcement TNT and AEW are prepared to run for a very long time. (TJRWrestling)

That will conclude another edition of The Top Ten Wrestling Stories of the Week. Like always if you enjoy what I do please follow me on Facebook and Twitter @BackseatBookers and listen to my podcast the BackseatBookers (please be aware that it is explicit as I swore six times alone when Adam Sandler wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award this week.)

 

The post Top 10 Wrestling Stories of the Week 1/16: AEW Dynamite Extended, Murphy Joins Rollins and AOP on WWE Raw, More appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

A Collective Review of AEW Dark 1/14/2020 by Lance Augustine

Welcome to the weekly TJRwrestling review of AEW Dark. Last week, we saw an abbreviated show that only had two matches, although a third took place but never aired. The reasons for the third match being cut are different depending on who you believe. The two matches that did air saw Awesome Kong picking up a win in a squash opener and an above-average main event featuring SCU taking on AEW Dark veterans The Hybrid 2 and Kip Sabian.  As always, you can check out my in-depth review of last week’s show and every other episode of AEW Dark so far here.

AEW Dark consists of matches that are taped before and after that week’s episode of Dynamite, which they post on the AEW YouTube channel the following Tuesday. I will post the show at the bottom of the review. What kind of episode are we going to get this week? Let’s find out!

AEW Dark from Southaven, Mississippi 1/14/2020

It’s episode 15 and we are a week removed from AEW scoring a huge ratings win in the “Wednesday Night War”. Dynamite was a good show last week, although it wasn’t AEW’s strongest outing to date. The biggest thing to come out of it was the return of Diamond Dallas Page, who will be in a six-man tag team match on this week’s episode. I will also mention that tomorrow night’s edition of Dynamite is being branded as “Bash at the Beach”, which is awesome.

The Dark intro plays and we are straight to ringside with Excalibur and the guest commentator for the night, Dave Brown. Dave was a legend in the Memphis territory for years as he served as the voice of Memphis wrestling, along with Lance Russell. I bet he didn’t think he would be sitting beside a masked dude doing commentary in 2020, though. They throw it to the control room to get the night started.

Tony Schiavone and Dasha Gonzales join us in the control room, and they start putting over the celebration of Memphis legends that AEW has put together for the evening. Tony talks a little bit about Lance Russell, before throwing it down to Justin Roberts who is in the ring with a few of the Memphis wrestlers they will be honoring. First up, he introduces “Handsome” Jimmy Valiant who was one of the trainers of “Hangman” Adam Page. Kevin Lawler is introduced next, who is the brother of Brian Christopher. For those who don’t know, Brian was best known as Grand Master Sexay in the WWF during the Attitude Era, and was one half of the tag team Too Cool. Dave Brown is next to be introduced, followed by Shane Russell, who is the son of late Memphis great, Lance Russell. They mention how Lance was influential in starting the career of Jerry “The King” Lawler. Justin then introduces Austin Idol, who had a long-time feud with Jerry Lawler that lasted years in the Memphis territory. “Dangerous” Doug Gilbert is up next and is soon followed by his father Tommy Gilbert and brother “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert.

The Rock and Roll Express, Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson, have their turn to be honored. If you remember, they played a role late last year in the tag team feud between The Young Bucks and Proud and Powerful. “Leaping” Lanny Poffo is the next to be introduced, and is the brother of all time great, “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Their father, Angelo Poffo, is also mentioned here and had a solid wrestling career himself. Obviously, the Macho Man is one of the most recognizable wrestlers of all time, often overshadowing other members of his family. Justin asks for the crowd to stand as they ring the bell to honor those Memphis legends who have passed away.

Back in the control room with Tony and Dasha as they put the finishing touches on the segment, before sending it down to the ring for the first match of the night.

Brandon Cutler vs. Darby Allin

Let me just start by saying that Allin is super over with the crowd and is a future star in the industry. Cutler has been underwhelming thus far, but he isn’t terrible. Also, listening to Dave Brown try and call this match should be a real treat.

The match starts with both men locking up in the center of the ring. Cutler gains the advantage and takes Allin to the mat with a scoop slam. He covers Allin for a two count. Allin rebounds and takes Cutler down with a shoulder tackle. Allin follows it up with a kick to the face of Cutler. He charges into the corner, but Cutler gets the feet up. He follows that up with knees to the head, followed by a two count. Cutler throws Allin hard into the corner, and Allin falls to the mat. Cutler continues to work on the arm of Allin, and throws him into the opposite corner. He follows that up with a spinning slam for a two count. Allin recovers and gets a near fall with a backslide. He follows that up with an armbar, but Cutler gets to the ropes. Both men are on the mat with Allin getting to his feet first. Cutler makes a comeback and hits a flying kick to the head. He picks Allin up in a torture rack position, but Allin reverses and grabs Cutler by the fingers and hits the Code Red for a two count.

Allin takes too long to capitalize, and Cutler takes him down with a leg sweep. Cutler continues working on Allin with the ropes, and hits a leg drop with Allin draped on the second rope. Allin recovers and hits a dive to the outside. Aubrey Edwards is checking on both men, as they continue to fight on the outside. They roll back in the ring, with Allin taking the advantage. He attempts a Coffin Drop but Cutler catches him. He doesn’t have control long as Allin hits a float over stunner for a two count. Allin follows that up with a Coffin Drop from the top and gets the win in about 9 minutes.

Winner: Darby Allin
Match Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Match Notes: Surprisingly enough, this was a competitive match. Both men got a good bit of time to shine, with Cutler having one of his better matches since joining AEW. Allin has really unique offense and he didn’t shy away from it here. Allin takes on Pac this week on Dynamite and that should be a good match. Allin going over here was the right move, so it served its purpose.

After the match, Tony and Dasha give us a quick recap of what went on last week on Dynamite, before we are back at ringside for the next match.

Nyla Rose vs. Shanna

Shanna attacks Nyla as she is making her entrance. She hits her with shots, before Nyla recovers and grabs a table from underneath the ring. She sets up the table and attempts to powerbomb Shanna through it off the apron. Shanna counters her, and follows that up by spearing Nyla off the apron through the table. That spear was slop city. I only say that because they insisted on showing three replays of it. Referees come down to the ring to separate the two, and the match is called off.

Quick Thoughts: Obviously, I can’t rate a match that didn’t take place. It was a good brawl, but I don’t think having segments like this on Dark is the best use of their time.

Alex Marvez is in the back interviewing Shanna. Before she can get anything out, she is attacked by Nyla again.  Nyla talks some trash, before the referees get back to split the two up once again.

Tony and Dasha are back and go over the upcoming AEW shows that are coming down the pike, including the next AEW Pay-Per-View, Revolution. I will also make the observation that Tony couldn’t seem less interested in what he just saw between Nyla and Shanna. It’s time for the main event.

The Gunn Club (Austin and Billy Gunn) vs. Peter Avalon (w/Leva Bates) and Shawn Spears (w/Tully Blanchard)

Austin grabs a microphone and tries to entice Billy to “do his thing” on the mic. Billy grabs the mic and does the “suck it” bit with the crowd. Less effective than when they do it in the WWE. Tully Blanchard is once again out with Spears, and I for one will say that he deserves more than this. Avalon is out last and talks trash to the crowd and The Gunn Club, as the match begins.

Billy and Spears are the two to start the match. Spears taunts Billy with the crotch chop. The two tie up, with Billy gaining the advantage and hitting multiple shoulder blocks. Gunn returns the favor with a crotch chop of his own, much to the delight of the fans. Spears jumps to the outside to regroup. He gets back in the ring, as Billy tags in Austin. Austin and Spears spend a lot of time feeling each other out, before Spears takes him to the corner and hits some chops. He tags in Avalon, who continues to work on Austin in the corner. Austin reverses Avalon and hits an arm drag. He hits some more offense on Avalon before he is joined in the ring by Billy and Shawn Spears. Austin makes the tag and Billy attempts a fallaway slam on Avalon, but Bates pulls him down. Avalon makes a quick tag and both men trade chops on the corner. Spears goes for the ten punches but takes too much time, allowing Billy to regain the advantage enough to make a tag.

Austin is back in, and continues to hit Spears with some shots in the corner. He goes for a dropkick, but Spears reverses and throws him to the mat. He follows that up with multiple shots to the ring posts. He tags in Avalon and he continues to work on the arm of Austin. Avalon takes a shot at Billy on the apron which causes a distraction with the referee. They double team Austin behind his back, with Spears making a legal tag when the referee turns around. Spears continues working on Austin, but he recovers and makes the tag to Billy, just as Spears makes the tag to Avalon. Billy cleans house of both men. Billy grabs Avalon and goes for a powerbomb but it cut off by Spears. Billy and Spears go to the outside, which allows Avalon to roll up Austin for a two count. Austin recovers and hits the Fameasser, but Avalon kicks out at two. Austin climbs to the top, but Spears grabs the leg and crotches him on the rope. Avalon goes for a Superplex, but Austin hits a headbutt and knocks him to the mat. He follows that up with a senton from the top and gets the win around the 13 minute mark.

Winner(s): The Gunn Club
Match Rating: 2.75/5 Stars

Match Notes: The Gunn Club had a really nice showing in this match. Austin sounds, and moves in the ring a lot like his dad, which is not a bad thing. Billy Gunn is one of the more underrated performers of all time and he showed that he still has it after all these years. This is probably the closest that Peter Avalon will get to any main event match in the foreseeable future. Don’t ask me why Tully Blanchard has been reduced to being on Dark. I know he is there to give the rub to Spears, but they need to be on Dynamite, at least some of the time. There was nothing terrible about this match, and it was a solid way to end the night.

After the match, Tully and Spears contemplate on what to do next, as the show goes off the air at 54:49.

Overall Show Rating: 5 out of 10

Another average outing for the Dark brand. I didn’t grow up with Memphis wrestling, which was a little before my time, but it was cool to see some of these guys being recognized. Why they didn’t have this segment on Dynamite after promoting it heavily is still a mystery. Obviously, guys like Brian Christopher and “Macho Man” Randy Savage made splashes in the industry outside of the Memphis area, and with both of them being deceased, it was nice to see them memorialized by members of their family. The opening match with Allin and Cutler wasn’t bad, but wasn’t anything special. Alpine continues his ascent up the ranks, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a focal point moving forward. The brawl with Nyla and Shanna was alright, although I think you are wasting airtime having an angle like this on a show that isn’t even an hour long. The main event had some cool spots, and Austin Gunn has some potential to be a player in the future. Lastly, for the love of all that is holy, give Tully something to do other than being on Dark every three weeks.

What did you think of episode 15 of AEW Dark? Loved it? Hated it? Wondered who the dudes were in the beginning of the show? Either way, keep the conversation going over @collectiveheel on Twitter and let me know your thoughts. Support the site. Support each other. I’ll be back soon enough with some more Collective Thoughts.

 

The post A Collective Review of AEW Dark 1/14/2020 by Lance Augustine appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

The WWE Raw Reaction for 1/13/20 by Kelly Dishnow

Welcome to The WWE Raw Reaction where I offer my take on this week’s show from Lexington, KY. You can check out John’s full in-depth review here.

The Raw opening and pyro starts the show off. We go right to the ring for our previously advertised match between Randy Orton and AJ Styles. Orton is out first for a quick promo to bring AJ out. AJ cuts a promo on Orton, which leads to Drew McIntyre coming out. Drew cuts another face promo before issuing a triple threat challenge and the bell rings to start the triple threat. The OC appear out of nowhere and gets taken out by an RKO and Claymore Kick, respectively. The match was really good for the time they were given. The finish was set up by AJ trying to RKO Orton, who drops AJ with a Styles Clash. AJ kicks out and then eats an RKO. Drew Claymore Kicked Orton out of the ring and covered AJ for the win. Clever finish to start off Drew’s face run. It’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here as a face.

Rollins cuts a promo to get over his new heel gimmick and throws us to another break.

Our next match is Ricochet taking on Mojo Rawley. Ricochet is announced as entering the Royal Rumble so he wins this quick match after the Recoil and 630 Splash.

Street Profits do a quick promo to hype the rest of the show and we get another commercial.

Charlotte Flair is up next to take on the hometown girl, Sarah Logan, who gets no reaction when announced from Lexington. Charlotte squashes Logan in quick fashion before disposing of Logan from the ring and leading into another break.

There was some quick hype from Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe, and Big Show before going back to the arena for Brock Lesner and Paul Heyman’s appearance.

Heyman hypes the Rumble before 24/7 Champion R-Truth comes out. Truth does his usual 24/7 title promo before declaring for the Royal Rumble to be the one to eliminate Paul Heyman and Brock laughs. Heyman corrects Truth that Brock is in the Rumble instead. Truth thinks it over and the mistake he made before undeclaring for the Rumble. As Truth goes to leave, Brock levels him and leaves him laying. This segment was just absolutely brilliant and if you missed it, seek it out you must.

Back from break and Truth is being helped to the back when Mojo Rawley levels him and wins the 24/7 title.

We are then reminded about the Bobby Lashley/Lana wedding and Charly Caruso tries to interview the happyish couple when they arrived at the arena. Lana complained about how the wedding was ruined and they entered the arena to lead into the Bobby Lashley and Rusev match.

The Lashley/Rusev match itself was OK and Rusev is really trying hard to make this angle work. Liv Morgan stomps down to the ring to set the finish up. Lana throws a fan’s drink into Liv’s face before tossing her into the barricade. Rusev was distracted by this and eats a spear from Lashley to take another loss. Afterward backstage, Lana issues a mixed tag (thank God) challenge to Rusev and Liv. The challenge would be accepted quickly right after the next match of the Viking Raiders destroying the Singh Brothers.

Up next had a table breaking out in cold sweats as Lawler hosted the contract signing between Becky Lynch and Asuka. The table was spared as they each signed the contact before Asuka green misted Becky’s eyes. Becky cut a good promo while being tended to by the WWE Medical Staff before being taken to the back.

There were dueling promos from Andrade and Rey Mysterio for their US Title Ladder Match next week before heading to another break.

Aleister Black and Buddy Murphy are up next to tear the house down. We get another awesome match from these two yet again and I don’t think you could ever get tired of watching these two against each other. Black picked up the win yet again and it looks like WWE finally figured out what to do with him. Let’s hope for big things in 2020 for Black.

After hyping next week’s show, Erick Rowan slaughters another hopeless scrub. The cage angle did advance though with it biting Rowan’s hand. Buddy Murphy was still sitting at ringside.

Main event time with Mike Rome explaining the Fist Fight rules. Big Show comes out first and gets attacked by Rollins and AOP as he comes down the ramp. Joe and Owens rush out with kendo sticks to start the fight off. Owens and Joe pair off with AOP on the stage and Show has Rollins in the ring. Rollins noticed Murphy is still sitting at ringside and asks him for help. AOP eventually take out Joe and Owens and Murphy helps Rollins get the upper hand on Show. The four of them take out Show to win the match to close out Raw.

Let’s look at tonight’s highs and lows:

The Highs:

Another amazing match between Black and Murphy. They keep getting better every time they square off. Black was the right choice for the win again.

R-Truth’s antics with Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar just have to be seen to be believed. I don’t know how R-Truth comes up with this stuff and keep a straight face. Even Brock was amused by it.

The Lows:

The Lashley/Rusev match just fell flat. Rusev is trying to get this over, but at least next week is a mixed tag instead of Lana and Liv. Lana is not that good of a wrestler and I don’t think Liv could carry the match.

===

I think that face McIntyre and Black are getting positioned as good possibilities to eliminate Brock from the Royal Rumble match. There’s still another week to see where they are going with those two.

That’s all I’ve got for this week, until next time.

The post The WWE Raw Reaction for 1/13/20 by Kelly Dishnow appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

Return Season in WWE is Upon Us: Morrison, The Usos, Big Show & Sheamus – by Mike Sanchez

A belated Happy New Year to all the TJR Wrestling faithful. I hope you all had a joyous holiday period and have a prosperous 2020. Wow, just typing that makes me feel old. As I’ve previously said on here, 2020 heralds a change to WWE programming over here in the UK. The long-standing partnership between WWF/WWE and Sky Sports (that was in place for 30 years) ended in the last couple of weeks and a new deal with BT Sports began. The plus for UK BT Sports subscribers is that NXT was part of the deal and viewers will get all three brands to enjoy. At the moment, I haven’t purchased a subscription, so I am catching up on all things WWE using other ‘media services’ and WWE’s YouTube channel – which is pretty good, to be fair. Sky Sports currently have around 9.5 million UK subscribers whereas BT Sport boasts a growing number of around 8 million. I may concede defeat and become a subscriber, but it’ll be another monthly cost for me, so we’ll see how that pans out.

Anyway, through my other sources of information, I’ve caught up on all things Raw and Smackdown and watched the returns of several superstars. I know it’s Royal Rumble season, so I was surprised to see so many when the PPV is so close, but more faces on the screen mean more opportunities for new storylines, new feuds and new matches. The internet and wrestling community wasn’t set alight by the returns, in fact perhaps ‘underwhelmed’ would be a more apt description, but are we being unfair on the returning stars? Could they bring a new dynamic to proceedings and are we too harsh on men who have sacrificed much to carve out a career in such a difficult industry? Let’s take a look:

The Usos – Though not long-term absentees, their reintroduction could come at a real opportune moment. It appears that WWE is beginning to play with the idea of alliances or stables again; Rollins & AOP, Corbin, Ziggler & Roode, The OC, Samoa Joe & Kevin Owens etc. The Usos are naturally aligning with the Samoan brother and real-life cousin, Roman Reigns. Reigns has steadily climbed the ladder back to the top and his rise has been warmly received by a lot of the WWE Universe. Reigns has had very real struggles and come back fighting.

With The Shield reunion not happening anytime soon, Reigns needs friends to support him in his quest for gold and the Usos are a great choice. Samoan stables are nothing new, but can be used very effectively if done right. Hopefully, they can be an important part of Reigns’ ascension to the top and create a stable that has been needed for some time.

John Morrison – I’m more invested in what Morrison brings for The Miz rather than what this does for Morrison. There’s no doubt he’s a superb talent. He looks incredible at age 40, is an amazing athlete, and though his promos aren’t earth-shattering, he can do a good job. I really thought he’d be saved for the Rumble, but it wouldn’t exactly have been a surprise, would it? Everyone knew he had re-signed with WWE.

Morrison had success in his early WWE career; multi-time Tag Team Champion, a three-time Intercontinental Champion, but never made that step up to main event level for whatever reason (I don’t count the ECW Championship as a top title, sorry). Has he been brought back to fight at the top of the card? Possibly not, but you never know. I think he’ll bring freshness to Smackdown Live, especially in his matches and with any luck, can align with Miz to elevate his partner. Miz is criminally underused on TV and should be much higher on the card than he currently is. Only time will tell.

Sheamus – I have an unconscious bias against Sheamus as he’s a self-confessed fan of Liverpool FC, so I have a natural tendency to dislike him, lol. No, seriously, I’m happy he’s back in WWE because I’m a fan of his YouTube series where he trains with a variety of WWE superstars, learning their own preferences and techniques when it comes to training methods. It shows a more personal side of him and his dedication and hard work is evident to anyone who watches. The problem is, this isn’t reflected in any way for his on-screen persona. He’s pigeonholed into a one-dimensional character; a big bully with a big kick. It’s a safe option for WWE and easy to portray. Trouble is, he’s been doing the same shtick for over ten years. Certain gimmicks have longevity, but this does not.

Every fan knows what to expect from him. He beats up smaller opponents, berates the crowd, and acts threatening and intimidating. Rise and repeat. His brief dalliance with the always excellent Cesaro was a welcome deviation where both men were showcased as faces for a small period of time but then reverted right back to being bad guys. I like Sheamus, I really do, despite his soccer allegiance, but a change may be required if he wants to reinvigorate himself and be something new for the audience.

Big Show – The more I think about it, the more I strongly believe Big Show doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Show has been on our screens for almost twenty five years. After his WCW stint, he arrived in WWE at the height of the Attitude Era in 1999, signing a ten year contract. His impact was huge, taking part in The Corporation stable, before making his mark as a solo performer. The list of his accomplishments and championships would grace any Hall of Fame candidate and is quite frankly astonishing; WCW Champion (x2), WCW Tag Champion (x3), WWE Champion (x2), WWE Heavyweight Champion (x2), US Champion,  Intercontinental Champion, Tag Champion (x8). He was the 24th Grand Slam WWE Champion. Show should be treated with reverence and respect as one of the most successful ‘big men’ of professional wrestling.

But like Sheamus, he’s been labored with terrible gimmicks at times that have faded the star quality he should be remembered for. He’s made more turns in his career than Lewis Hamilton, so maybe now he can stay in one role. Hindsight is 20/20 and it’s easy for us to complain about what could or should have been done with his character, but in what could be his final run in the company before retirement, maybe WWE should just leave him as the wise veteran who still has something to offer and be a good guy the crowd can rally behind and support as he gives his all in an industry that hasn’t been kind to the giants in history. One final swansong for the Big Show? Have him enjoy himself out there and be the gentle giant to the fans, but a danger in the ring.

In closing, do these returns excite me? No, not really. They wouldn’t have had me leaping from my sofa if they’d all returned at the Royal Rumble either. It’s good to see people return from injury and get back to doing the job they love, but nobody mentioned above will make me want to tune in week after week. Perhaps the veterans in the group will be catalysts for the younger generation and elevate them, perhaps not. Whatever happens, I wish them all well in their careers. Perhaps I’ll be wrong and they’ll do something new or unexpected. If so, it’ll only be good for WWE going forward. Fingers crossed.

The post Return Season in WWE is Upon Us: Morrison, The Usos, Big Show & Sheamus – by Mike Sanchez appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

Top 10 Wrestling Stories of the Week 1/9: Multiple WWE Returns, Wrestle Kingdom 14, Brock in Rumble, More

Welcome back TJR readers, did you spend all day at the gym trying to lose that extra holiday weight and miss Smackdown? Perhaps you only watch RAW if somebody is going to get married? Fear not fellow wrestling fans, as I am back with another rendition of The Top Ten Wrestling Stories of the Week to catch you all up.

10. WWE Brings Back Ice Cream Bars “Sort Of”

Like many wrestling fans of the 1980s, I have fond memories of going to a WWF live event and enjoying a WWF Superstars Ice Cream Bar. The joy of opening those bars hoping for Hulk Hogan, but usually ending up with someone like Hillbilly Jim, was a part of mine and a lot of other fans’ childhood. Also like many wrestling fans, I was excited when CM Punk teased the prospect of these bars returning in 2011, only to be disappointed when it didn’t occur. These feelings once again returned this week when the WWE announced that they will once again be teaming up with Good Humor to get back in the ice cream game. The quick feeling of excitement though was once again followed by deep disappointment when I realized that this new confection will be an Ice Cream Sandwich, and not the same delicious Ice Cream Bars of my youth. Clearly the WWE has not gotten the memo that I scream, we scream, we all scream for Ice Cream BARS! (TJRWrestling)

9. Big Matches Booked for NXT

The Future is looking very bright for NXT, as they booked a number of huge matches this week. Keith Lee defeated Cameron Grimes, Dominik Dijakovic and Damien Priest to earn a North American Title shot against Roderick Strong on the January 22nd episode of NXT. Also, NXT Women’s Champion Rhea Ripley accepted a challenge from NXT UK Women’s Champion Toni Storm for NXT Worlds Collide on January 25th, setting up a potential champion vs. champion match. The highly anticipated match between Johnny Gargano and Finn Balor will finally take place at NXT Takeover Portland, Oregon on February 16th. Finally on next week’s NXT, The Grizzled Young Vets will face off against the reuniting Time Splitters from NJPW of Kushida and the debuting Alex Shelley in a first-round match of the Dusty Rhodes Classic. Clearly WWE is trying to get wrestling fans to stop Splitting their Time between AEW and NXT on Wednesday nights.

8. Jon Moxley turns down the Inner Circle

After weeks of courting, including offering him a car and a 49% stake in the group, Jon Moxley decided if he was going to join Chris Jericho’s group, the Inner Circle, this week on AEW: Dynamite. Moxley originally agreed to join them, revealing an Inner Circle shirt and beginning to celebrate with Jericho and the rest of the Inner Circle with a little bit of the bubbly. Moxley, however, suddenly turned on Jericho, hitting him with the bubbly after telling him “I was just kidding, I would never join the Inner Circle, it’s a stupid group, you have nothing that I want. Except for that [title].” One has to believe that if Jericho had been able to procure a box of the original WWF Ice Cream Bars to entice Moxley to join them, then this whole thing may have played out differently. (TJRWrestling)

7. NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 14 Takes Place

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 14 boasted an attendance of over 70,000 people over two days this past weekend in the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan. This marquee event featured a number of amazing moments and matches including Jon Moxley regaining the IWGP US title from Lance Archer and  Tetsuya Naito winning a series of matches to become both the IWGP Intercontinental and Heavyweight Champion. Also on the card was a match between current AEW Heavyweight Champion Chris Jericho and Japanese legend Hiroshi Tanahashi, with the stipulation that if Tanahashi won he would get an AEW title shot against Jericho. Jericho ended up winning this match, but stated the following about a working relationship between AEW and NJPW:

“The forbidden door is closed, but I don’t think it needs to be closed. Put aside all of the hurt feelings and egos.”

Let’s all hope that whatever “Doors” is in the way for these two amazing companies to begin a partnership, that they can”break on through to the other side” of them together. (TJRWrestling)

6. Lana and Bobby Lashley Get Married

After having their nuptials ruined last week, love found its way and Lana and Bobby Lashley got officially married this week on RAW. After a quick ceremony, Lana’s ex-husband Rusev appeared on the Titantron to harass the new happy couple with photos from the previous week’s disastrous ceremony. An upset Lashley then challenged Rusev to a match next week on Raw, which Rusev accepted. Later in the evening Lana’s former Lesbian lover Liv Morgan announced that she will be in Rusev’s corner for the match. It is unclear if this match and nuptials will finally end this over three month feud, or if it will continue to cause pain and torture for years to come like many marriages do. (TJRWrestling)

5. Jushin Thunder Liger Retires at Wrestle Kingdom 14

One of the greatest Junior Heavyweights in the history of wrestling, Jushin Thunder Liger, called it a career this past weekend at Wrestle Kingdom 14. Liger went out on his back, getting pinned in both an eight-man tag match on Saturday and a tag team match on Sunday. The Japanese legend won many championships during his 35-year career including winning the WCW Cruiserweight Championship, WWF Light Heavyweight Championship, and the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship a record 11 times. It is yet to be seen if Liger will follow in the footsteps of Steve Austin and stay retired or go the route of Terry Funk who has seemingly had 46 retirement matches thus far.(TJRWrestling)

4. The Big Show Returns on RAW

After nearly a year and a half away, The Big Show made his return in the main event  of Monday Night RAW this week. Show was victorious in a six man tag match with his partners Samoa Joe and Kevin Owens against the team of Seth Rollins and AOP. During his absence from wrestling Show appeared in a couple of movies, as well as had a total of five surgeries on his 47-year-old hips. Show will once again team up with Joe and Owens to face Rollins and AOP next week on RAW in the first ever “Fist Fight” match. After the combatants “Fist Fight”  it is unclear if they will also compete in a “thumb war”. (TJRWrestling)

3. The Usos Return to Help Roman Reigns on Smackdown

After being off WWE television since last July, the Usos made their return to TV to assist their cousin Roman Reigns. As King Corbin and Dolph Ziggler were once again attempting to handcuff and smear dog food on Reigns, the Usos came down and foiled the attack. For Reigns’ sake let’s hope that the Usos can continue to drive to the arenas successfully to have his back in the future. (TJRWrestling)

2. Sheamus and John Morrison Return on Smackdown

It was a night of returns this week on Friday Night Smackdown. After The Miz lost to Kofi Kingston in about four minutes, the frustrated Miz turned heel and attacked Kingston. Later in the show, Cathy Kelley tried to go into the Miz’s locker room, but was met by a returning John Morrison who said that, “The Miz has nothing else to say tonight.” Morrison, who hasn’t wrestled in the WWE since 2011, will now seemingly once again be teaming with his former “dirt sheet” partner, The Miz.

If The Usos and Morrison weren’t enough returns for one show, Sheamus also made his return on Smackdown this week. Sheamus came to the ring to seemingly help Shorty G who was being attacked by the Revival. Sheamus instead attacked Shorty G with a Brogue Kick, perhaps so he can take him out and start using his new moniker Whitey S. (TJRWrestling)

1. Brock Lesnar to Enter the Royal Rumble Match

After weeks of speculation, Paul Heyman announced that no one will be facing Brock Lesnar for the WWE Heavyweight Title at the Royal Rumble. Lesnar will instead be the first competitor to enter the ring for the Men’s Rumble match, taking the number one spot. Lesnar has not defended the title since Survivor Series in November and has no title defenses planned at this time, causing former WWF President Jack Tunney to roll over in his grave for ignoring the 30 days clause. (It’s not really a rule. Just a storyline thing they used in the past.) (TJRWrestling)

That will conclude another edition of The Top Ten Wrestling Stories of the Week. Like always  if you like what I do then please follow me on Facebook at The BackseatBookers and Twitter @BackseatBookers and listen to my podcast The BackseatBookers (be aware it is explicit as I swore 62 times this week just over Ice Cream Bars.)

The post Top 10 Wrestling Stories of the Week 1/9: Multiple WWE Returns, Wrestle Kingdom 14, Brock in Rumble, More appeared first on TJR Wrestling.