TJR Retro: WWF Badd Blood 1997 Review (First Hell in a Cell Match)

It’s back to 1997 we go with this review of WWF In Your House: Badd Blood from October 1997. I wrote this originally in the mid-2000s and I have never posted it here before.

If you’ve seen this show or if you have read about it, you know it’s famous for two reasons. The first reason is that WWF superstar Brian Pillman passed away one night earlier in his hotel room in Minnesota. He was scheduled to wrestle Dude Love at this event, so they had to improvise by adding a match while also extending some of the others. Pillman was one of those guys that could get over as face or heel, cut a killer promo and then deliver a solid match. Sadly, injuries robbed him of the greatness he had in the ring, he turned to drugs to help him deal with the pain and that ultimately led to his tragic death due to a heart attack. He was a part of the Hart Foundation group that hit its stride in 1997 while also being one of the few close friends of Steve Austin among others, so his loss really affected the entire roster. Pillman was only 35 years old.

The other reason this show is famous is because it featured the first Hell in a Cell match involving The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels. Michaels cost Undertaker the WWF World Title when he accidentally hit Taker with a chair shot while Shawn was refereeing Undertaker’s title match against Bret Hart. Michaels didn’t show that much remorse, so he turned into a top heel while fans clamored for Undertaker to get revenge. When they met at the September PPV, Ground Zero, Undertaker was so pissed that he beat up refs just to get to Michaels and they brawled all over the ring. The match got thrown out due to all the extracurricular activities, which left the fans wanting more. All of that led to the creation of the Hell in a Cell cage, which was a 15-foot high structure that covered the ring and also had room between the ropes and cage. It was unlike anything we had ever seen in the WWF before. Not only did they have a hot feud between two great wrestlers that were in their prime, but they also had a gimmick match that had never been done before. A lot of good stuff happening all at once meant a highly anticipated match that delivered the goods.

From a storyline standpoint, there was also interest in the Undertaker/Michaels because Paul Bearer had promised the Undertaker that Kane will arrive and the Undertaker’s life will never be the same. At the time, it was not universally known when Kane would appear or what he would look like. However, his music and a red light appeared in the weeks prior to this event basically to scare The Undertaker. Kane was an unknown. We didn’t know how big he would be or what he would look like. They did a great job of building up to his appearance.

Other than that, the Intercontinental Title was up for grabs due to Steve Austin having to vacate it after having his neck injured at Summerslam two months earlier, so Owen Hart (the former champ) would battle Farooq in the finals of a tournament to determine the winner. The World Title picture was pretty bleak even though Bret Hart was a great champion. The problem was there weren’t enough viable challengers, so Hart teamed with his Hart Foundation partner the British Bulldog to face Vader and The Patriot in a Flag match. Now you understand why this is a one-match show.

The last thing you need to know is that the blood for this show is so bad that they need to put a second D on the word bad to emphasize it. That’s how bad the blood will be on this show. You’ve been warned.

Note: There will not be any play by play rundown of these matches except for the Hell in a Cell match. I don’t really like that the style that I reviewed this, but this is such a bad card other than one match that I’d rather not sit through it again.

WWF In Your House: Badd Blood 
The Kiel Center in St. Louis, Missouri (Go Rams)
 
October 5, 1997

The announcers are Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. Note that this is the last PPV where Vince McMahon would be an announcer. I have missed his “Ohwhatamove” or his “1…2…he got him…no he didn’t get him” reactions during the matches. How about you?

3 on 2 Handicap Match: Nation of Domination (Rocky Maivia, Kama Mustafa and D’Lo Brown) vs. The Legion of Doom

There was not a lot happening here since LOD weren’t known for their in-ring work, Kama was never very good and Brown was still pretty green at this point. Rocky was the key guy although they didn’t let him do that much. Still, the fans got on him a lot starting a lot of those “Rocky Sucks” chants that helped him get the opportunity to show what he could in the ring as a singles competitor. The match broke down, Faarooq ran down to distract LOD and Rocky got the pin with the yet to be named Rock Bottom for the win. Basically it took four guys to beat two here because LOD weren’t fans of losing. Let’s just put it that way.

Winners via pinfall @ 12:20 – Nation of Domination

Analysis: * Bad match that went too long. On the positive side, the crowd’s hatred of Rock grew, which of course was a great thing for the company going forward.

A tough moment followed with McMahon announcing Brian Pillman’s death, which they also did in the pre-show. I remember hearing about it through a friend that must have read about it on the internet because I wasn’t really reading about wrestling on the internet until after Survivor Series. Due to the death of Brian Pillman, a new match was added to the show.

Max Mini and Nova vs. Tarantula and Mosaic 

A pretty basic match featuring the little people with Max Mini getting the star spots because he’s shorter than the others and the fans would get into him more than the others. And of course, he got the pin.

Winners via pinfall @ 6:43 – Max Mini and Nova

Analysis: *1/2 Okay match to fill time, but nothing really memorable here.

WWF Tag Team Titles: The Headbangers (c) vs. The Godwinns (w/Uncle Cletus)

Uncle Cletus was TL Hopper earlier in his WWE career. The Headbangers won the belts a month earlier at Ground Zero, which was a big thing because they were basically losers. Thing is the fans liked them because they were different than the norm. This one had no flow, very little crowd reaction and not very much good work in the ring. The Godwinns were not good in the ring while the Headbangers could have okay matches with the right opponents, which the Godwinns were not. The match broke down so many times that it’s hard to know if the finish was even done correctly. The end result was that the Godwinns won after PIG (that’s Phinneas I. Godwinn) hit an ugly powerbomb.

Winners via pinfall and New Tag Team Champions @ 12:17 – The Godwinns

Analysis: * Bad match that was a shining example of how bad the tag division was at the time in the WWF. It would get better the following year.

We see a video package showing all the people that Austin gave the stunner too while being pissed about being injured. I can’t begin to describe how impactful this stuff was at the time. It was like a breath of fresh air because it was unlike the usual stuff we saw in wrestling.

Next up was a segment hosted by Jim Ross honoring some of the legends of the St. Louis area. The legends were: Harley Race, Jack Brisco, Dory Funk, Jr., Gene Kiniski, Terry Funk, Lou Thesz, and promoter Sam Muchnick. This was during a time when the WWF ignored their own Hall of Fame until 2004 and suddenly it was important again.

For the Vacant WWF Intercontinental Title: Owen Hart vs. Faarooq

Steve Austin had to give up the IC title due to his neck injury, so they had a tournament for it. Faarooq made the finals because I’m pretty sure Ahmed Johnson got hurt, which gave us a heel vs. heel final. To make up for the dead crowd, Austin came out to ringside to commentate as well as harass the announcers. I can’t imagine this being an easy match for Hart or Austin since both were so close to Pillman. The match was pretty bad because there was no rivalry to go on, Faarooq wasn’t a very good worker and fans were more interested in what Austin was doing. He ended up giving a belt shot to Faarooq, which led to Hart winning. It was confusing initially because Hart was his main rival, but it made sense because Austin wanted to beat Hart for his belt instead of somebody else.

Winner via pinfall and New Intercontinental Champion @ 7:12 – Owen Hart

Analysis: *1/2 They got through it, but it wasn’t that interesting until Austin showed up. That’s probably because it was heel vs. heel too. It was more of an angle than a match, really. Amazingly, this PPV was the last one Austin would miss for about two years despite the brutal neck injury he suffered at Summerslam 1997.

Disciples of Apocalypse (Crush, Chainz, 8-Ball and Skull) vs. Los Boricuas (Savio Vega, Jesus Castillo, Jose Estrada, Jr. and Miguel Pérez, Jr.)

Do you want to know what one of the worst feuds in WWF history was? It’s DOA vs. Los Boricuas. They had multiple PPV matches against one another ranging from singles to regular tags to six man to eight man and they all stunk. This was no exception. Crush got the win with his backbreaker.

Winners via pinfall @ 9:11 – DOA

Analysis: 1/2* A clean PPV win. Did it end this awful feud? Of course not.

Flag Match: Bret Hart and The British Bulldog vs. The Patriot and Vader

Bret was the WWF Champion that didn’t have a title match on this show. The flags were placed on the ring posts despite the fact that Bulldog was British (he did live in Canada) and Vader didn’t come off as the most patriotic guy even though he was American. It was a long tag team match that dragged. The best part of the match came near the end when a drunken fan decided to enter the ring to get at Hart I presume and he got stomped on for his efforts while being taken out by security. That was great. I love stupid fans getting beat up. The finish came soon after with Hart beating Patriot with a rollup even though Hart had taken a beating. Hart grabbed the tights as well because that’s what heel champions do.

Winners via pinfall @ 23:13 – Brt Hart and British Bulldog

Analysis: **1/2 It was too long. It felt like a TV match more than anything except that they had about 30 minutes to kill, so they had to stretch it longer here. I felt really bad for Bret here because not only was he working with a heavy heart due to Pillman’s passing, but you could also sense that he knew the company was losing faith in him by only giving him a tag match despite the fact that he was the champion. They probably should have done Hart vs. Vader and Bulldog vs. Patriot instead although I’m pretty sure they were down on Vader as a performer at this point. It’s a shame we never really got a good Vader vs. Hart match because they would have worked really together given their ability to adapt to different styles.

In the backstage area, Michaels delivers a very cocky speech where he sarcastically makes fun of his “coveted” European Title and delivers a very nice line: “Ain’t nobody crazy enough to do this gig ‘cept for the Heartbreak Kid.” Awesome visuals of the cage coming down follow that. I can remember watching with my buddies and thinking how cool the whole thing looked.

The winner of this got to become the number one contender for the World Title. “Sexy Boy” plays and Shawn is HATED by the crowd while Taker gets a big pop.

Hell in a Cell: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels

This write-up will be the full play by play because it’s one of the greatest matches ever and I think it’s important to cover the whole thing.

Shawn is scared, so he runs outside the ring. Taker stalks him back inside where he nails Shawn with a boot to the head that Shawn oversells. Taker tosses him into the turnbuckle three times and goes for a chokeslam, but Shawn fights back with some stiff punches. Taker whips him into the corner, Shawn flips upside down and bounces off so he can be drilled by a clothesline that gets a two for Taker. Taker works on Shawn’s shoulder and proceeds to deliver his patented top rope clothesline on the shoulder he just worked on. He follows with a slam and a legdrop and that gets two. Taker whips Shawn into the buckle and tosses him over the top to the floor via a back body drop. Shawn hits the ground hard and hits his feet on the side of the cage on the way down. Taker joins him outside as a small “make him bleed” chant starts. (I told you Shawn was hated.) He picks up Shawn and holds him up against the cage, Shawn begins to climb up, but Taker pulls him down again. JR mentions that there’s probably some idiot saying Shawn knows how to fall hard like that. Taker whips him into the cage, Shawn bounces off and is decked with a clothesline for another hard bump. Taker’s offense is described as a “physical dissection” by the announcers. He goes for a powerbomb, but Shawn fights it, so Taker decides to just ram his back into the cage twice as Shawn crumbles to the ground again.

Then Taker whips him into the ring post and punches him several times in the ribs, which sort of looks like a boxer hitting a bag in the gym. He picks Shawn up and tosses him around like a rag doll into the ringpost, cell, ringpost again and finally the cell once more. Taker lifts Shawn up again, but HBK tosses Taker into the cell, which leads to Shawn laying flat on his ass due to another clothesline because Undertaker was dominant. Shawn’s thrown into the steps, Taker sends him to the cage, but Shawn bounces off, ducking a clothesline and hammers Taker with several punches. As Shawn tries getting Taker inside the ring, he is met by a stunner over the top rope which Michaels sells as if he were shot out of a cannon. Taker is standing on the apron, Shawn gets up and shoves him into the cage, finally giving Michaels control of the match.

Shawn flies through the middle ropes with a plancha, ramming Taker’s head into the cell. Shawn climbs up the cage and drops an elbow in a very cool spot. He follows that up with a clothesline off the apron. Shawn goes for a piledriver on the steps, but can’t get him up and almost botches the move. Michaels recovers to deliver a VICIOUS piledriver on the ring steps. As Shawn makes his way up, he accidentally hits a cameraman yelling “get the f**k away from me!” This cameraman is stubborn and gets too close again forcing Shawn to say “get this s**t away from me!” Shawn climbs in the ring and delivers a double axehandle off the top to the floor as they finally get into the ring. Shawn punches Taker again and slides out looking for a chair, which he finds under the ring. The crowd pops huge as Vince yells out “OH NO!” because of their history with the chair. Shawn drills Taker twice in the back with a chair and only gets two. That pisses Shawn off and causes JR to wonder what Michaels will need to do in order to get a victory. Shawn puts him in the corner, but Taker fights back (pops from the crowd). Michaels kicks him and ties him in the ropes. Shawn runs at him and is met with a boot followed by an Undertaker back body drop over the top rope landing on a cameraman who just happened to be filming there. (It’s a brilliant move.) Shawn is angry, so he punches and kicks the camera guy as the announcers overreact saying the camera guy has a family. They say that he’s just a young cameraman and he’s not here to take a beating. Shawn shoves the camera guy conveniently in front of the door so some EMTs could help the poor man out. In the ring, Shawn nails Taker with the flying forearm, an elbow off the top (JR says nobody does it better. Randy Savage who?). As they open the door, allowing EMTs into the cage, Shawn drills Taker with the Superkick, but Taker sits up and Shawn practically shits his pants at least based on his facial expression. Great facial expressions there. Shawn runs out of the ring and out the door just as Hebner was trying to shut it.

The excitement builds as they are outside of the cell causing everyone, from the announcers to the fans, to go absolutely nuts. Of course, the thought of fans watching is “I hope somebody falls off the top of the cell” because everybody enjoys seeing others in pain. Wrestling fans are sick! Shawn was in control with a dropkick sending Taker into the cell but he gets greedy, goes for it again and Taker stops him there. At this point, pause the match and watch as Michaels brings out a razor and cuts his forehead open (in mid-move, by the way) delivering one of the greatest blade jobs ever. Taker slingshots HBK into the cell, punches him stiffly on the open wound and rams him face-first into the cell. JR describes Shawn as a “human javelin,” while Michaels was a bloody mess.

Shawn hits a low blow and climbs to the top of the cage because that’s the only place he can go to get away from The Undertaker. As Shawn climbs, Taker follows right behind him as the crowd’s response gets louder with each step the men take. Taker hits Michaels with a back body drop ON THE CELL (big pop), which he follows up with the old fashioned “grind the man’s face into the cage” causing even more of Shawn’s blood to leave his forehead. He follows with a Gorilla Press Slam on the cell causing an even larger pop from the crowd. A punch sends Shawn flying about five feet, so Shawn is hanging off the side of the cage right above the Spanish announce table. Taker steps on his fingers and Shawn goes through the table back first in a HUGE bump that was about eight feet high. Even if you have not seen the match I am sure you have seen the replay because WWE showed it 741 times in the months that followed. The crowd is as loud as they could possibly be as JR uses the infamous “He’s broken in half!” line. (This was the biggest bump in WWE history at this point until Mick Foley topped it twice in June 1998.)

Taker hip-tosses Michaels onto the broken table as Shawn’s blood is everywhere. His whole face is covered in blood as JR proclaims that he has never seen anything like this in his life. Taker drags Shawn to the inside and they come back into the ring as the cage is locked for the second time. The crowd is hot as Taker delivers a chokeslam off the top rope in a move that I still think is very cool even today. Shawn is helpless now as Taker brings in a chair (another big pop) and absolutely demolishes Shawn’s brains with a vicious chair shot to the head. That was his revenge for the shot he took two months ago at SummerSlam. That’s called storyline continuity and they call it a “receipt” in the business too.

Taker signals for the end to the delight of the crowd, but the lights go out, the organ plays, the building is engulfed in red and there’s a familiar person. THROUGH HELLFIRE AND BRIMSTONE IT’S PAUL BEARER! OH MY GOD!! I mean, it’s Kane! Vince had a famous line here: “THAT’S GOTTA BE KANE!” Kane rips the door off its hinges (almost), tosses Hebner into the cage and stares the Undertaker down. Kane sets the ringposts on fire, Taker looks away (dumb move) and is met with a kick to the gut and a tombstone from the big red machine. Bearer throws water on the ref, so that he can count the pinfall. Shawn crawls on top of Taker out of a pile of his own blood and gets the 1…2…3, thus giving him the WWE Title match at Survivor Series. The match went 30 minutes exactly.

Winner via pinfall @ 30:00 – Shawn Michaels

Extended Match Analysis: ***** I’m going the full five stars out of five. The ending doesn’t hurt it, in my eyes. It’s part of a great story that was told over the course of many months. I’ve got a lot to say here because it’s one of the best matches ever. I’ve probably watched this match 10-15 times because it’s that good. Like a favorite movie or top episode from a TV show, it never gets old. This was easily one of the most anticipated matches of all time. A lot of people did not even know what the cell was going to look like. That drew a lot of people to be interested in the match. Tossing HBK into the match made things that much greater because he was such a good performer. The feud was built so strongly that Shawn went from a tweener at Summerslam to the most hated man in the WWF by the time Badd Blood rolled around.

I know I mentioned how much Shawn bled in the match and honestly, it’s one of the biggest blade jobs I have ever seen. Not only was the blood in his hair and on his forehead, but it was dripping everywhere around the ring too. The angle with the cameraman was also executed perfectly because it allowed the wrestlers to get on top of the cage where the people wanted them to be. The match was booked perfectly because just as Shawn nailed the superkick, Taker sat up and the door was ready to close meaning Michaels wanted to get out of there. A lot of times little things are done wrong and it ruins the match but in this match, it was the little things like the blade job and camera guy that made it that much more special. It’s great storytelling because the chickenshit heel Michaels wanted to run away because Taker would sit up after taking everything Shawn could dish out.

I think the best thing about the feud was the use of the steel chair because none of this would have happened had it not been for Shawn’s errant chair shot two months prior. Keep in mind that chair shots in the WWF were not a regular thing by this time and that’s probably why the crowd reacted so well to it. When Shawn first grabs the chair in this match the crowd popped huge fearing for Taker’s life. Then later, after Shawn only gets two out of the chairshot it makes you realize just how tough Taker is. Later in the match when Taker seizes control of the chair he hits Shawn with a chair shot as hard as any I have ever seen. The crowd reacted perfectly to it because they wanted the heel to get what he deserved.

This match had everything including a storyline, plenty of heat for both men, tremendous psychology, great timing, a killer blade job and one hell of a bump by HBK. Throw in the fact that it was the greatest performance by the Undertaker (up to this point in his career for sure) and that Michaels was the best wrestler alive at the time and you have yourself one of those special matches that you will never forget. Plus, Kane’s debut was very memorable because it happened during this amazing match. It set the tone for a long rivalry with Kane and The Undertaker. Everything just seemed to go right. I know I certainly won’t forget it and if you’ve seen the match you probably feel the same way.

Simply put, one of the best professional wrestling matches ever.

The show ends with DX carrying Shawn out of the ring while we are left to wonder what’s next for The Undertaker and his debuting “brother” Kane.

 

Final Thoughts

3 out of 10 – That score is for the main event. The rest is mostly garbage. I figure if you give us one of the best matches ever in the main event the show deserves some recognition for having at least one really great thing on it. That’s why it gets the four.

It’s very hard to criticize people for having bad matches knowing that one of their friends (Brian Pillman) died less than a day earlier. That’s incredibly tough to deal with, so I do understand why there was some bad wrestling on this show. The other part of it is that the roster was so thin at this point that they were simply unable to have good matches from start to finish.

This was a one match show. That one match had a lot of hype and it delivered. And no, I’m not talking about Los Boricuas vs. DOA! It was all about Michaels/Taker. Immediately after the show not only were we thinking about how great this match was, but also what would happen when Michaels went after Hart a month later? Believe me when I say none of us had any idea of what would actually go down at Survivor Series.

 

Three Stars of the Night

1. Shawn Michaels – Awesome. Probably the best performance of his legendary career even to this day 12 years later. That’s saying something considering the greatness before and after this match. His heel act was fresh, he was in his physical prime before injuries slowed him down a bit and he was against a fresh opponent that he worked with perfectly.

2. The Undertaker – I feel the same way about him as I do Michaels. It was as good as he’s ever been. He was perfect in his role as the bully in this match even as the babyface.

3. Bret Hart – Bret did well even though he didn’t deserve being in such a lame tag match as this.

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In 2017, I wrote an in-depth column about the first Hell in a Cell match for The Comeback, so you can check that out here as well.

If you want to know what happened at the next PPV, which was Survivor Series 1997, I have covered that one in-depth right here and I wrote a lot about what’s known as the Montreal Screwjob.

I don’t plan on reviewing the last 1997 PPV and going into 2008. Instead, I’m going to focus on other PPV reviews I have been doing in 2007 and 2000. Those will pop up whenever I have time to review them.

Thanks for reading this review. My contact info is below.

Email: mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter: @johnreport

Personal Facebook and TJRWrestling on Facebook

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Power in Numbers: Case Studies from a Decade of WWE’s Misbooking of Groups by Jake Thomas

There is nothing better than a good trio or stable. Simply mentioning these words bring back immediate flashbacks to memorable groups like the NWO or DX. How could anyone forget the formation of the NWO at Bash of the Beach 1996? Or DX invading Nitro during the Monday Night Wars? Groups can help create everlasting moments like these that will never be forgotten. Sometimes, a group is created to provide opportunities for wrestlers, allowing each member to shine in their own role. The Shield gave opportunities for Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins to shine, whilst being able to hide the shortcomings of a developing Roman Reigns and make him look like a star. Fans love groups, which is why it makes it all the more frustrating when they fail through poor bookings.

Tragically but perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s more common to find a poorly booked group than one that has reached its full potential. For every group like DX, there is the Nexus. For every trio like The Shield, there is The Straight Edge Society. What has often seemed like straightforward booking paths, have been roadblocked by mindboggling decisions that have often permanently derailed a group’s momentum. Usually, it involves matches, when one side should’ve clearly been booked to pick up a victory and continue gaining momentum. Other times, a group just isn’t featured prominently enough to make an impact. Whilst the WWE has had some success this decade with groups like The Undisputed Era, The Shield and The New Day, there have been far more groups with sky high potential that have faltered.

The Nexus

When you look at missed opportunities and poor booking of stables in the WWE, The Nexus stand out as one of the biggest examples of WWE misbooking in general. Back in 2010, SuperCena syndrome was still running deep through the WWE. So when 8 NXT rookies led by Wade Barrett jumped the barricade in June 2010 and launched a sickening assault on John Cena, it created a lot of buzz. They also attacked the ring announcer (that led to Daniel Bryan being fired for a few months), commentators and the timekeeper whilst tearing the ring to shreds. They followed this up with more attacks on the WWE roster, Hall of Famers, Bret Hart and even Vince McMahon. In a time when it seemed like WWE was struggling to create new stars, with the help of one of the hottest angles in WWE history, it seemed like The Nexus were destined for stardom.

It looked like the angle couldn’t fail. After months of tormenting members of the roster, Cena formed a team to take on The Nexus at Summerslam 2010 in a 7 on 7 match. With Team WWE featuring highly respected main eventers like Cena, Chris Jericho, Edge and a legend in Bret Hart, everything was set up for The Nexus to gain major credibility by defeating some of the WWE’s top stars in their first test as a team. Until they didn’t. Originally booked to defeat Team WWE, a late push from Cena would involve changing the match finish, instead having Cena overcome a 2-on-1 disadvantage to eliminate Justin Gabriel and Barrett to win the match for Team WWE. Despite heavy protests backstage from The Nexus and Jericho and Edge, the change was made and The Nexus failed in their first major match on the WWE roster.

This would arguably be the beginning of the end for The Nexus. Many members would leave and join, with Cena joining the group after being beaten by Barrett due to outside interference from new members Husky Harris (Bray Wyatt) and Michael McGillicutty (Curtis Axel). Barrett would fail in three title matches on pay-per view, before “firing” Cena after he refused to cheat as the guest referee in Barrett’s match against WWE Champion Randy Orton at Survivor Series 2010. Cena began to harass members of The Nexus, regularly interfering in their matches despite being fired, forcing Barrett to give Cena his job back. Barrett would later lose to Cena at TLC, before Barrett himself was then exiled from the group by CM Punk, with Punk renaming the group “The New Nexus”. This officially ended the tenure of the original Nexus, with some remaining in the new group whilst others joined “The Corre” on Smackdown with Barrett. That group didn’t have much success either.

Where did it all go wrong? How did WWE manage to botch one of the hottest angles in modern memory and halt the pushes of 8 young and upcoming stars? The Nexus simply shouldn’t have lost as much as they did, especially not the big matches. As much as The Nexus won, they never quite got over losing that match at Summerslam. Their leader Barrett couldn’t even gain a clean singles win over Cena.

The Nexus should’ve been a dominating force that ran all the way up to Wrestlemania and potentially beyond. Instead, most of the original Nexus had left the group by the start of 2011. Today, only two of the original Nexus remain with the WWE in a wrestling capacity, Daniel Bryan and Heath Slater. WWE’s misbooking of The Nexus not only caused the stable to fail, but also prevented the making of 8 potential stars in the process. Had The Nexus succeeded, it’s likely that the WWE could’ve created a highly memorable program and elevated the 8 members of Nexus to a position in which most would still be with the company today.

 

The Straight Edge Society

Coming off heated rivalries with Jeff Hardy and The Undertaker for the World Heavyweight Championship in the second half of 2009, CM Punk’s career was at a bit of a crossroads. Whilst the matches he had wrestled with Jeff Hardy were given critical acclaim, Punk’s feud with The Undertaker had a different effect. Punk’s main event status was damaged considerably as he was made to look like a chump in all of his matches with The Deadman. Punk at best could only manage a meek “submission” victory over Taker in an effort to repeat the Montreal Screwjob again at Breaking Point 2009. This would lead to a rematch inside the cell at Hell in a Cell 2009, in which Taker almost squashed Punk, taking his World Title and leaving him directionless.

In danger of being lost in the shuffle, Punk smartly chose to reinvent himself. He began leaning even more into the straight-edge aspects of his persona, turning himself into a cult figure who proclaimed he needed to “save” the fans from themselves. Punk recruited Luke Gallows, known as Festus at the time, to his cause, before beginning to shave the heads of fans in attendance at WWE shows. At this point, Punk recruited Serena to his team, a woman in the audience whose head Punk had shaved on Smackdown. The three would become known as The Straight Edge Society, a unique trio with a gimmick that hadn’t been done before in the WWE.

The Straight Edge Society didn’t do a lot during their time as a group. Punk would try to recruit various superstars to the group, trying several times in the Royal Rumble in 2010. Not long after this, The Straight Edge Society entered a feud with Rey Mysterio, which involved Punk creepily singing Happy Birthday to Mysterio’s daughter on an episode of Smackdown. They traded wins at Wrestlemania and Extreme Rules, before Joey Mercury later joined the group. Mysterio then took the definitive win in the series at Over the Limit, forcing Punk to shave his own head. Punk continued on to a feud with The Big Show, who beat The Straight Edge Society in a countless amount of matches. They would officially split up in September after Serena, Mercury and Gallows had all been released. There were rumors of Serena not “living the gimmick” and drinking booze in public, which led to WWE putting an end to the angle.

Could more have been done with The Straight Edge Society? Absolutely. Punk mentions this on his DVD when he states the reactions they were getting from the fans should’ve led to a bigger push for the group. Should they have wreaked havoc across the WWE like The Nexus? Probably not. But to say the maximum potential was taken from the group wouldn’t be true. There were more unique opportunities to tell stories with a cult-like gimmick such as this one. Perhaps Punk could’ve actually recruited some superstars into the society who weren’t doing anything on TV like Zack Ryder or Trent Barreta? Whilst a group doesn’t need to win all the time, regular squashes by The Big Show didn’t help with their development.

Even though it didn’t have to nor should it have been the star attraction, The Straight Edge Society could’ve been more than a fodder for babyfaces that was regularly overcome with no wins coming the other way.

Unfortunately, this is only scratching the surface when it comes to the countless examples of poorly booked stables in the last decade. The Nexus had everything going for them during their run in 2010. The crowd was reacting to them, they had a fresh look and were dominating other wrestlers on the roster. The WWE could’ve and should’ve been done with them to help turn them into stars. The Straight Edge Society, whilst on a different level to The Nexus, should’ve been more than fodder for faces to beat for credibility. With such a unique gimmick, there was a place in the WWE in 2010 for The Straight Edge Society to thrive.

Both The Nexus and The Straight Edge Society stand out as missed opportunities that could’ve been used to tell memorable and unique stories.

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Hello there! My name is Jake Thomas and I’m one of the many new writers joining the TJRWrestling team. I’m from the land down under in Melbourne, with my fellow Aussies Buddy Murphy and The IIconics killing it in the WWE. Wrestling is a big passion of mine and I’ve been following TJR since I first started watching wrestling around the Summer of Punk in 2011. Since then, I’ve tirelessly caught up on my wrestling knowledge and I’m really excited to contribute more articles on the site as time goes on.

The post Power in Numbers: Case Studies from a Decade of WWE’s Misbooking of Groups by Jake Thomas appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

The John Report: WWE NXT 09/18/19 Review

This was the first episode of WWE NXT on USA Network in the US. The first hour was on USA Network, then the second hour was on WWE Network due to USA Network airing the final two episodes of “Suits” this week and next week. Apparently, WWE Network had a lot of issues in that second hour, but I’m watching on demand, so it’s fine now.

The bad thing for me is there’s no USA Network here in Canada and no Canadian channel picked this show up even though Sportsnet 360 (which shows Raw and Smackdown) was showing some taped poker event from years ago on Wednesday night. On Sportsnet 360 from October to April, they show NHL games on Wednesday nights, so it’s not going to be shown here unless some other deal happens. Let’s remember that WWE only did this to counter AEW on TNT in the US. They didn’t care about getting deals in other countries. That means their next biggest markets like the United Kingdom and Canada must wait 24 hours after NXT airs on USA Network for it to be on WWE Network. I realize that I can download it off a website that posts it online (shoutout to watchwrestling) on Wednesday night, but that’s not the same as getting it on cable TV that I pay for. By the way, there’s still no official news on where AEW will air in Canada either. Anyway, I’ll figure it out as I go.

As for the format of this review, I’m no longer doing play by play, detailed reviews of NXT. Once AEW starts on October 2, I’m going to review that in-depth like I do Raw and Smackdown (moving to Fridays on October 4). Three long reviews in a week, plus PPVs when they happen, is going to be enough for me on top of all the other writing and editing I do. I still want to cover NXT, so I’m going to write this article with thoughts on the show, star ratings on the matches and whatever else comes to mind. One of our new writers, Jim Kress, is doing NXT Reviews for us now and he’ll get those posted fairly quickly after the show is over. His style is different, but that’s okay and he’ll work on it as he goes forward on the site. I’m hopeful that I will do this review column on Thursday afternoons, but if it’s Friday morning when I post it then that’s okay too. Life is busier than ever for me, so I just have to find the time when I can. Let’s get to it.

Taped from Full Sail University in Orlando, FL, this is WWE NXT episode #370. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport.

The opening video featured Triple H talking about there being something special in the atmosphere in NXT as highlights were shown of NXT history. Great video to welcome fans to NXT on USA Network. That led to Triple H walking onto the stage and the fans chanted “NXT” as the show came on the air.

The announce team for NXT was Mauro Ranallo, Nigel McGuinness and Beth Phoenix, which remains the commentary team going forward.

Candice LeRae defeated Mia Yim, Bianca Belair and Io Shirai

This was a fast-paced match from the moment it began and I was very impressed by Shirai, who makes everything look so easy. They had several sequences in the match where everybody was hitting big moves and then Shirai hit an incredible moonsault onto LeRae and Yim on the floor. They went to commercial and then hit a 4-Way Tower of Doom spot leading to “NXT” chants. There were several good nearfalls near the end of the match and cool spots like Belair hitting a KOD on LeRae, but Yim broke up the pin. LeRae faced off with her former friend Shirai, who was shoved off the top by Yim to stop a moonsault. LeRae managed to hit a reverse rana and a springboard moonsault on Yim for the win. My pick going into this match was Belair, but I certainly don’t mind LeRae getting the win because she’s a natural babyface like her husband Johnny Gargano. They got about 10 minutes, but only 7 minutes shown due to the commercial. It was fun, wild, athletic and exactly what makes NXT so great. (Match Rating: ***1/2 out of five)

The win by LeRae meant that she gets to face Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women’s Title.

There was a staredown on the stage with Baszler and LeRae along with Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke supporting Baszler. I think it’s very possible that LeRae wins the title when they have their title match.

A brief video was shown about NXT Champion Adam Cole.

There was a video package that let us know there will be a Donovan Dijakovic vs. Keith Lee match next week. Please check that out if you can because they are outstanding heavyweights who always have great matches together.

Cameron Grimes defeated Sean Maluta

The bell rang, Maluta charged, Grimes hit a running double stomp to the chest and pinned Maluta to win after about five seconds. They see big things in Grimes (formerly Trevor Lee) and there’s nothing wrong with that because he has a lot of potential. (Match Rating: No point in rating it.)

A video package was shown about Damian Priest, who is one of the taller guys in NXT and will probably get a big push in the coming months.

The next match was the main event of the first hour on USA Network.

Roderick Strong defeated Velveteen Dream to win the NXT North American Championship

The first few minutes were slow paced, Dream was in full control and then as you would expect, the heel Strong took over after that with a backbreaker onto the guardrail. Strong’s offense featured a lot of submission attempts and several backbreakers because he’s known as the “Messiah of the Backbreaker” as Ranallo pointed out. When Dream tried a Sharpshooter, Strong kicked him out of the ring and Dream shoved Strong into the steel steps. That led to the second commercial break of this match.

Dream made his big comeback and got some good nearfalls with a superkick as well as DreamDT that led to “NXT” chants again. Strong had an offensive flurry of forearms and nearly won with his Boston Crab submission. Strong’s buddies Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish went to ringside. Shortly after that, Strong grabbed Dream and shoved him into the referee. Dream hit a Dream Valley Driver, but there was no referee. Dream fought off the Undisputed Era guys on the apron, Strong hit a suplex into the double knees and Dream kicked out to a huge ovation. Dream with another Dream Valley Driver, he went up top, the referee was distracted, Cole with a superkick and Strong hit the End of Heartache (suplex into double knees) for the win. Strong got the pin after 15 minutes to become the new NXT North American Champion. All of the interference keeps it from being four stars, but the finish made sense considering how close the Undisputed Era group is. It was still a great match and it’s fitting that they did a title change on the first NXT on USA Network show. (Match Rating: ***3/4)

The win by Strong meant that the Undisputed Era group all have titles with Adam Cole as the NXT Champion, Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly as the NXT Tag Team Champions and now Strong as the NXT North American Champion. As they said many times, the prophecy from the Undisputed Era was fulfilled.

That was the end of the first hour on USA Network. As I noted in the opening paragraph, the two hours will be on USA Network on October 2.

When the broadcast moved over to WWE Network, Strong’s championship celebration continued. I like how the Undisputed Era’s championship celebration lasted several minutes. It made the title win feel like a bigger deal. They spent a few minutes recapping the wins of Candice LeRae and Roderick Strong from the first hour.

In two weeks, it will be Shayna Baszler vs. Candice LeRae for the NXT Women’s Title. I think there might be a title change there.

Pete Dunne defeated Arturo Ruas

As soon as this match began it was obvious Dunne was going to win, but I liked that Ruas got plenty of offense and he looked competitive during the entire match. Good strikes from both guys. I liked Nigel McGuinness comparing Dunne to Daniel Bryan. There was a gruesome moment where Dunne ripped on the toes of Ruas, who wrestled barefoot.  Dunne got the win with the submission that included a triangle choke along with a finger snap and it went about seven minutes. Pushing Dunne in NXT is fine with me. He is one of my favorites in NXT. This match went about seven minutes. (Match Rating: **3/4)

Dakota Kai returns to NXT next week. She has a bright future.

Xia Li defeated Aliyah (w/Vanessa Borne)

Li first female superstar from China in WWE history. Li went for a top rope spot, then she slipped off the top and it looked like they were confused for a bit. Li hit a few kicks after that and then a spinning kick to the back. Li has potential, but that one spot where she messed up hurt the match for sure. It only went two minutes. (Match Rating: 1/2*)

A guy named Denzel Dejournette was in the ring for a match against Kushida, but there was an interruption. The NXT UK group Imperium went into the ring to attack Dejournette with Alexander Wolfe hitting a German Suplex and there was a Powerbomb/uppercut combo. The fans chanted for Walter and that led to Walter, the UK Champion, making his entrance. The crowd reaction for Walter definitely made him feel like a huge star.

Walter said they’re Imperium and this mat is sacred. Walter issued a warning to others and Kushida made the interruption in part because he was the scheduled to have a match. Kushida took out three of the Imperium guys, then Walter threw Kushida down and Kushida hit a jumping kick to the head.

Analysis: It was a nice surprise to see Walter on NXT because he’s such a terrific all-around talent and a natural heel. Kushida showed a lot of heart going against four heels like that. Walter vs. Kushida will be an awesome match when they do it soon.

Lio Rush defeated Oney Lorcan

This was a pretty good match. This was Rush’s first match since he left WWE TV in May, so it’s nice to see he’s on good terms again and he showed off what he can do in this match. The fans were strongly behind Rush although they liked Lorcan as well. That’s the NXT fans, though, because they tend to like nearly everyone on the show. Lorcan was in control for most of the match with Rush selling a left knee injury. Rush hit an incredible move off the ropes where he did a springboard into a Stunner for a two count. That was sweet. Lorcan came back with a Powerbomb and then a single leg Boston Crab to continue working on the left knee along with a STF. When Rush got back up, he hit a Spanish Fly to counter a charging Lorcan, which was impressive. Rush went up top and hit the Five Star Frog Splash for the pinfall win. I liked the story of the match with Rush showing that babyface resolve to make the comeback for a big win. They got about 11 minutes. (Match Rating: ***1/4)

The win by Rush means he’ll get a title match against Cruiserweight Champion Drew Gulak.

Street Fight: Matt Riddle vs. Killian Dain ended in a No Contest

This started like a fight with Dain hitting a dropkick right as the bell rang and then they left the ring. Riddle connected with a kendo stick shot, but then Dain sent Riddle into the crowd and a senton splash on the floor. They went to the backstage area, then the action spilled out to the parking lot and Dain tossed Riddle into a truck. The Imperium group was sitting a table, so Walter and his buddies attacked Riddle, which led to the Street Profits coming in for the save. Most of the NXT roster got into a wild brawl in the parking lot. Dain and Riddle ended up going back into the arena, but other wrestlers entered from the back and made it to the ringside area too. The fans chanted “NXT” again as a brawl spilled out into the arena. They set up for a big spot with Dain as the last man in the ring. Dain ran the ropes and hit a suicide dive onto a bunch of guys outside the ring. The fans chanted “Holy Shit” and that was the end of the show. They wrestled for about three minutes while the entire chaotic situation lasted about six minutes. (Match Rating: ** – Fun while it lasted, but obviously not a complete match.)

I thought this was an interesting way to end the show because they spent weeks building up the Riddle vs. Dain rivalry and then it ended up as a wild brawl with the entire roster. That means they can do Riddle vs. Dain again and they announced it in this Youtube clip after the show.

When you see how the crowd reacted to it and the chants they were doing, it was obvious that they liked this ending too. What works so well for NXT is the focus on the in-ring action. There aren’t as many promos as Raw or Smackdown. It’s about the matches, the brawls and telling the best stories they can. This ending was perfect in terms of telling viewers what NXT is all about.

 

Final Thoughts

There were several very good matches all night long and the North American Title change was treated like a big deal. I thought the opening match with the four women in a competitive battle was a smart way to begin the broadcast. It was all action that represented what NXT is all about. The ending was chaotic, which is a smart way to keep people tuned in next week to see what would happen next.

It was also cool to see that the Women’s 4-Way won by LeRae and Rush’s win over Lorcan will lead to title matches. That’s the right way to build up title matches by having wrestlers beat other contenders. On Raw or Smackdown, what we normally get is champions losing non-title matches. I’m sick of that. This is the better way to do it.

I think they did a good job of showcasing what NXT is all about. It was a bit of a surprise that Johnny Gargano wasn’t on the show at all, nor was he really mentioned considering he is arguably the top face in NXT. I think maybe he should have had a match. The tag team division wasn’t featured either, but there’s only so much time on the show.

If I rated this out of then it would be a 7.5 or 8 out of 10. Something like that. I enjoyed it.

This review was just over 2500 words. That’s what I was aiming for. If I went full details and play by play it would be at least double that. It saves me a bit of writing, but I also feel like I covered the show as well. Let me know your thoughts on the format in the comments.

Thanks for reading. My contact info is below.

John Canton

Email mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

Personal Facebook and TJRWrestling on Facebook

The post The John Report: WWE NXT 09/18/19 Review appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

Unpopular Opinions About WWE Right Now – by Mike Sanchez

This week I accidentally dragged myself into a heated debate with my friends over the answer to a simple question about a particular food brand – namely which of the most popular brands I preferred. Apparently my answer was not popular and though some chose to question my decision, others jokingly thought I’d lost my marbles. I didn’t back down, and we eventually agreed that I had stumbled upon an unpopular opinion – something I staunchly believe to be true, but will leave myself wide open for criticism, or outright disbelief that I think such things.

Though some of the following opinions of mine are light-hearted and not judgments I’m willing to die on a hill for, it’s worth remembering the golden rule; opinions are like assholes, everyone has one. Just because I think something doesn’t mean you have to agree, but this is wrestling and it’s not supposed to be taken too seriously.

Baron Corbin was the right choice to win King of the Ring

I know, many of you will have stopped reading as soon as you saw that, but hear me out. I wrote a few weeks back that the whole point of the King of the Ring tournament was to elevate a mid to lower card wrestler. Established names or guys with titles need not apply. This is purely to give stars some much-needed exposure and hopefully propel a career that may have stalled. Someone who at one time showed much promise, but for one reason or another, hasn’t hit the dizzy heights expected of them and needs a push. Corbin ticks all of these boxes.

Look, I wanted Chad Gable to win this Monday on Raw, I really did. But WWE doesn’t always give us what they want and sometimes with good reason. Gable has been the plucky good guy since he arrived in WWE, always up against the odds, and the KOTR tournament gave him a shot at winning over the crowd – and to be fair, he was doing a good job. However, perhaps WWE’s plans for him are as a heel going forward, or as a frustrated good guy who thinks the world is against him and will fight and scrap for everything from here on out. Worked out ok for Becky Lynch, didn’t it?

Back to Corbin and I’ll be the first to admit he wasn’t my favorite guy in WWE. Then again, when I think about it, he’s been hampered with some awful gimmicks; the annoying authority figure on Raw, the whiny wrestler who inserted himself into feuds and generally whining about everything. In recent weeks he’s changed. He’s stopped bitching and become cockier. He’s winning matches rather than fluking them, he’s berating the crowd a lot during his matches and now he’s won a high-profile tournament.

Corbin is never bashed by his peers inside or outside of the business and seems to be well-respected. He took on those awful gimmicks and tried his best with poor material. I don’t think it was his fault he didn’t connect with the crowds, but perhaps all he needs is a fresh start, a new feud and an opportunity. Gable will likely get a feud with Corbin out of this, so hopefully putting Corbin over was the right call and can elevate both guys in the long run.

Seth Rollins Isn’t The Biggest Name in Wrestling

Is Seth Rollins talented? Hell yeah. Is he a top guy? Of course. Is he one of the most well-known stars on the roster? Yep. Is he the ‘biggest’ name in the company? Well, that depends on who you ask. Being the champion of a brand or show in wrestling proves two things; you’re the man/woman to beat, and the company has faith in you right now. Rollins is a very safe hand and a credible champion. He never phones it in and is a poster boy for hard work, determination and toughness. Do I think he should be champion? Yes, I do. He’s popular with the fans of all demographics and is the standard-bearer for Monday Night Raw. His recent engagement to Becky Lynch has only served to make him more likable and popular.

However, some questioned his #1 ranking in the recent PWI rankings, and though I don’t class myself as a wrestling scholar or at the same level as those who ranked over 500 pro wrestlers – I mean, where do you even begin with that list? – is he the biggest name in pro wrestling right now? Let’s do some searches on Google. If he’s the biggest name out there, surely he should be top of the search rankings, right?

  • Seth Rollins – 25.9 million results
  • Chris Jericho – 26.6 million results
  • Bayley – 26.7 million results
  • Becky Lynch – 30.3 million results
  • Roman Reigns – 40.5 million results
  • Sasha Banks – 198 million results
  • AJ Styles – 260 million results
  • Daniel Bryan – 310 million results

And to prove the internet is a fickle mistress and not all wrestlers are equal:

  • Gillberg – 1.08 million results
  • Braun Strowman – 4.8 million results
  • Kenny Omega – 9.75 million results
  • Baron Corbin – 9.9 million results
  • Kofi Kingston – 13.7 million results
  • Randy Orton – 18.5 million results
  • Hulk Hogan – 36.4 million results
  • John Cena – 228 million results

So does that prove that Rollins’ popularity doesn’t transcend outside of WWE? Perhaps, but if that was the case, AJ Styles would be mega-popular outside of wrestling and more people would know Roman Reigns than Hulk Hogan. Take it with a pinch of salt, but my opinion is that Rollins isn’t the biggest star WWE have on their books – at least to the non-WWE audience.

Brock Lesnar is Money and an MVP Whenever He’s in WWE

It came as no real surprise that Brock Lesnar has been brought back to WWE to coincide with Smackdown Live’s launch on FOX. I’ve gone on record before that Brock is a blessing and curse to WWE. He is a draw. He is a freak of nature and a natural talent. He is a star attraction. If he lived, breathed and bled WWE, he would be the biggest star in the industry since Hogan or Austin, perhaps even bigger. Thing is, he doesn’t live for wrestling. WWE is a paycheck to him and nothing more. And honestly, who can blame him?

WWE will always find themselves in a Catch-22 situation. They try to push new talent, but forever go back to big names for their biggest shows.

Wrestlemania coming up? Book Undertaker, Triple H and Goldberg in matches. Got a high-profile show or major change to the brand on the horizon? Throw money at Brock Lesnar and give the Rock a call to see if he’s busy. What’s that? There’s a new X-BOX/Playstation game being launched and we need some talent for the promotional video? Find Sting and tell Hogan all is forgiven.

It’s a never-ending cycle. If WWE won’t push or build new stars for the future, they’ll be forever relying on big names from the past. It would be like NXT bringing in Samoa Joe or AJ Styles to headline a Takeover show.

The problem now is that everyone mentioned above can’t put on a show longer than ten minutes in a high-pressure match with the exception of Lesnar, so they have little choice in bringing him back. Lesnar is their current go-to guy, and sad as it may seem, he is a big attraction and will generate interest – also due to the fantastic hype man that is Paul Heyman. I’d love to write that Rollins, Reigns or Kingston were the big ticket guys who will draw in new audiences, but they just aren’t right now. Reigns does have a good demographic reach and a recent study showed non-wrestling fans find him the most intriguing/interesting/handsome of the current crop on TV, but his run as champion a couple of years ago, along with a negative reaction from WWE fans, saw that idea put on the back burner for a while.

As it stands, we’re stuck with Brock Lesnar being billed as the big draw for WWE. I don’t hate the guy, far from it, but it would be nice for WWE to try something new and showcase some of the current roster and use them as ways to draw in new audiences. Do what NXT does; build from within and use the talent in the locker room to get out into the world and make names for themselves. Garner interest from outside and bring new eyes to the product.

—-

So what do you think? Do you have unpopular opinions about wrestling? Did you disagree with all of mine, or did I get some right? I’d love to hear your thoughts. – Oh, before I forget, the unpopular opinion I had with my friends that caused so much outrage? I said the Burger King Whopper is a better burger than anything on offer in McDonald’s. There, I said it. I’ll die on that metaphorical hill.

The post Unpopular Opinions About WWE Right Now – by Mike Sanchez appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

Why Winning the King Of The Ring Tournament Will Not Help Baron Corbin by Alex Podgorski

Earlier this week on the September 16 edition of Raw, Baron Corbin won the 2019 edition of WWE’s King of the Ring (KOTR) Tournament. He beat Chad Gable, a perennial midcarder who has done precious little since splitting up with former tag team partner Jason Jordan. Corbin, meanwhile, has long been rumored to be one of Vince McMahon’s personal favorites, as seen with his previous accomplishments.

Since his main roster debut in 2016, Corbin has won the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royale, The Money in the Bank briefcase, the United States Championship, and has also been an on-screen authority figure. It’s clear that someone in WWE’s backstage environment wants the audience to think of Corbin as a credible main-event-level star. And now, with this win, he can add another accomplishment to his list.

Sadly for him, that win will not help him whatsoever.

There are several reasons for this. Firstly, Corbin gets a negative reaction from the fans already, but not in the right way. Corbin tends to get what’s known as ‘X-Pac heat’, or ‘go-away heat’. This means the fans aren’t booing him because they believe in his villainous antics; they boo him because they genuinely dislike him and do not want to see him in a top-level position.

Corbin has already been maligned for being overrated; many have lambasted him for having below-average matches for someone that’s supposed to be a main-eventer. This is why he received the dubious honors of Most Overrated and the Worst Gimmick (that of ‘Constable Corbin’) by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter in 2018.

The original purpose of the KOTR has been to serve as a launching pad for a rising star. It was meant to signal that the winner was going to be showcased more and be elevated to the top of the card. So now that Corbin has won, the assumption is he will be featured far more than he is already. This means fans will have to get used to seeing more of Corbin, which will actually be a bad thing.

WWE has already tried elevating Corbin through his previous accomplishments. He won the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royale in 2016, back when that still had some degree of importance. But WWE capitalized on that supposedly important victory by having Corbin lose on his first main roster PPV.

From there, Corbin became just another guy in WWE’s bloated mid-card, trading wins and losses and occasionally challenging for world titles without success. A year later, Corbin won the Money in the Bank briefcase, which was supposed to be another (and more realistic) channel through which Corbin could capture world title gold.

Corbin ended up losing his MITB shot in the most embarrassing way possible. In a sudden cash-in challenge, Corbin faced then-WWE Champion Jinder Mahal for the latter’s WWE Championship. Then, as soon as the bell rang, Corbin charged at John Cena, who was on the ring apron (instead of Mahal, on whom Corbin should’ve kept his focus at all times, since Mahal was the world champion, not Cena). Cena avoided Corbin’s attack, and Mahal defeated Corbin with a ROLL-UP OF DEATH, despite Corbin being fresh and Mahal had just finished a lengthy match. Just like that, Corbin was made to look like a complete chump and lost all credibility as a contender, all because of some backstage shenanigans.

Yet WWE persisted with pushing Corbin as a top attraction (mainly because he is tall, which is reportedly why Vince likes him so much), and once he was drafted to RAW, he was saddled with the most irritating and groan-inducing gimmick of all: the evil authority figure. This is a hated character for multiple reasons. WWE’s booking has been centered on the ‘corrupt authority figure’ model for the past twenty years, ever since Vince and Steve Austin had the greatest feud of all time built around that concept.

Over the past decade, the concept has been done to death, especially with the McMahon family redoing and rebooting the concept time and again. It has become so muddied and convoluted in recent years, what with each show having a General Manager, a commissioner, and of course, Vince as the one that can override any of them. Having Corbin act as yet another person in power did not make fans want to watch him get beaten up by the underdog hero. Instead, it made people want to change the channel whenever “Constable Corbin” was on screen.

Whenever Corbin won, fans groaned because it was the same, tired, shenanigans-filled nonsense that has permeated WWE’s booking for the past years. For many people, Corbin overstayed his welcome whenever he found himself in main-event spots thanks to on-screen abuse of power.

Even before the KOTR Tournament was over, Corbin was cutting promos as if he’d already won, ending his speeches with the lines, “All Hail King Corbin”. Sadly, this is a harbinger of what’s to come in the weeks/months ahead. Instead of using the tournament win to give Corbin enough credibility and momentum to reach the main event naturally, Corbin, like several previous winners, will inherit the dreaded ‘royalty gimmick’ that comes with the KOTR victory. WWE’s creative minds like to think that this ‘regal’ gimmick is what fans want to see and will make the winner more noticeable.

Unfortunately, history has not been kind to many of these previous ‘kings’. ‘King’ Wade Barrett is the best/worst example, as becoming a ‘king’ did more harm than good. King Sheamus was completely forgettable. Kurt Angle was only ‘King Kurt’ for a very short while before reverting back to his ‘Olympic Gold Medalist’ character. Bret Hart, Edge, Triple H, Steve Austin, and Brock Lesnar barely used the ‘king’ gimmick at all. In their cases, it was done to elevate their careers without altering their respective gimmicks in a significant way.

The only wrestlers for whom becoming a ‘king’ really worked were Owen Hart, because he used it to further his already-established feud with brother Bret, and Booker T, whose over-the-top King Booker shtick was outstanding and cannot be replicated by anyone on the main roster.

For many people, it’s bad enough that Baron ‘Boring’ Corbin is in his current position as an upper mid-carder on RAW. But now that he won KOTR, he’s going to be showcased even more than before.

If there was ever proof of a disagreement between what WWE’s fans want and what their management wants, this is it.

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I hope you enjoyed reading my post here. I have been writing about wrestling for five years now and am very proud to be writing for TJRWrestling. I hope my regular columns will become your ‘preferred reads’ about anything related to pro wrestling.

The post Why Winning the King Of The Ring Tournament Will Not Help Baron Corbin by Alex Podgorski appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

Top 10 Wrestling Stories of the Week 9/19: WWE NXT on USA Network, AEW, Lesnar Returns, More

Welcome TJR readers, my name is Matt Fowler. I am a 30-year fan of this wacky crazy world of professional wrestling. Now get this TJR fans, I am here to bring you all a brand new, never before seen concept, which I am calling a “Top 10 Wrestling Stories of the Week” (working title – we’re open to suggestions!). This “list” will consist of the top stories of the week and my unique and quite frankly brilliant take on them. So get ready to be amazed as I bring you what I feel were ten of the biggest wrestling stories of the week.

10. AEW Finalizing Their Card for Debut Episode on October 2

Just as this column clearly is doing, AEW has to make an amazing first impression. With the crowning of the first Women’s Champion and The Elite vs Jericho, plus a mystery team, they are hoping to do just that. Now, if they could just get Lex Luger to show up in the middle of a giant mall, they will be on the path to success for sure! (Rajah)

9. Police Have to Be Called to a WrestlePro Event After Big Cass Acts Aggressive and Erratic Backstage

Usually my goal is to be lighthearted and have fun in these columns, but unfortunately, this story does not have a lot to laugh about. Far too many wrestlers’ lives have been cut short. Being 7ft tall may not be teachable, but how to deal with the stresses of daily life on the road and being in the public eye hopefully can. My hope is that Big Cass can learn those lessons and get the help he needs before it’s too late. (Rajah)

Here’s hoping for some good news out of this story after Enzo Amore posted this letter on behalf of Big Cass. Get better soon, big man.

View this post on Instagram

A letter from my best friend @thecazxl 🙏🏼 …… I have been very honest with my past struggles, and it has been an ongoing battle. On Saturday night, I obviously let my demons get the better of me and I ruined an important night for a really great guy in an unfortunate series of events. I have worked incredibly hard to get where I am, and even harder to overcome my ongoing battle with depression. But I will work my absolute hardest to right the wrongs of Saturday night and apologize to Kevin Mathews, Pat Buck, Joey Janela, the entire WrestlePro locker room and all parties involved from the bottom of my heart. I’m getting help from family and friends as we speak and will be getting professional help in the near future and ask all to please respect my privacy in the meantime. When & if I reemerge as a public figure it will be in good faith and I hope to inspire those who struggle with the same mental health issues I do to seek the help they need. If Tyson Fury can do it….so can I. Remember…I ain’t dead yet. And neither are you. Peace and love, William Patrick Morrissey III —

A post shared by nZo 🖤 (FKA Enzo Amore) (@real1) on

8. Maria Kanellis Has a Gender Reveal Party on Raw

Remember how many of you have been clamoring for the return of the Attitude Era? Clamor no more. We now have a “cuckolding” storyline on RAW in 2019; I hope you are satisfied. At least the happily married Rusev is returning to potentially be the baby’s illegitimate father. All we need now is for the baby to end up being a hand, and the Attitude Era is back! (TJRWrestling)

7. WWE to Hold a Draft on October 11th and 14th

They say the third time’s the charm. After attempting, and then abandoning the idea of separate brands in 2002, and then again in 2016, WWE is promising two completely separate rosters from now on. Will this mean we will never again see RAW stars on Smackdown and vice versa? Or will a month from now Vince come up with another brilliant idea, like the “Wild Card Rule”? Since Vince seems to change his mind on this more than Ric Flair changes wives, I’m going to guess the latter. (TJRWrestling)

6. Baron Corbin Wins King of the Ring on Raw

Despite immensely improving in the ring, including a great match with Chad Gable this week, Corbin is still, unquestionably, one of the most loathed wrestlers on the roster. No matter how good of a heel he becomes, it seems like a portion of the audience will always give him “go away” heat. Does this heat come from not wrestling in the Indy’s, getting pushed way before he was ready, or his strangely shaped belly button? The world may never know. (TJRWrestling)

5. Luke Harper Returns at Clash of the Champions

I found Clash of the Champions from this past Sunday to be a mostly average show. One exception to this was the surprise return of Luke Harper, who helped Eric Rowan beat Roman Reigns. Will this underused big man finally be able to show that he has all the tools, or just a ridiculously large hammer again? (TJRWrestling)

4. Kevin Owens Sues Shane McMahon for Wrongful Termination

After being fired last week, WWE waited a whole week before having Owens return to television. We’re being told if Owens wins this lawsuit he will get 25 million dollars and apparently the ability to fire the boss’s son. Maybe next week it will be revealed that Shane will have to be Kevin Owens’ butler if Owens wins as well. Now that’s quality storytelling! (TJRWrestling)

3. Two Matches Announced for Hell in the Cell

The Hell in a Cell concept is hard to pull off in today’s WWE without the use of blood, and the occasional molar in a nostril. However, if any two matches can pull the Cell off, it’s these two. Banks, after contemplating quitting wrestling altogether, has returned with a new hair color and a new heel attitude. Wyatt, who has had more stops and starts than a NASCAR race, has gotten his new Fiend persona over more than anything else in the WWE right now. There is no way that the WWE can possibly mess this up, right? …..Right? (Rajah)

2. Brock Lesnar to Face Kofi Kingston for the WWE Title at the First Smackdown on FOX

For years, one of the top complaints from the WWE universe is that a part-time wrestler has been holding the title on Raw hostage. Now, a part-time wrestler is potentially going to hold the Smackdown title hostage instead. See guys, Vince McMahon does listen to us. (TJRWrestling)

1. WWE NXT debuts on the USA Network

NXT came out with guns a blazing on USA last night. It was a show that had many great moments, including Roderick Strong capturing the North American title from The Velveteen Dream. NXT was clearly looking to end the Wednesday night war before it could truly begin. Can AEW respond to the “follow that” challenge put in front of them? I, as one wrestling fan, certainly hope so. If this is any indication of the quality of wrestling we are going to be getting every week, then all of us fans should be chanting “fight forever.” (Review by Jim Kress of TJRWrestling)

That concludes the inaugural Top 10 Wrestling Stories of the Week. I’d like to take a moment to say how excited and humbled I am to be a member of this site. I have been reading John’s reviews and coming to this site for well over ten years. It’s hard to believe I am a part of it now. If you enjoyed my input and wacky sense of humor, you can follow me on Twitter @BackseatBookers or listen to my podcast The BackseatBookers (Beware it is explicit content as I have a potty mouth). Until next week, remember that wrestling is supposed to be fun; don’t let it stress you out too much.

The post Top 10 Wrestling Stories of the Week 9/19: WWE NXT on USA Network, AEW, Lesnar Returns, More appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

WWE NXT Review Sept. 18, 2019 (Debut on USA Network) by Jim Kress

Note from John Canton: Welcome Jim Kress to the site. He’s going to be our regular WWE NXT reviewer moving forward. Is his style of writing the same as mine? No, and that’s okay. Everybody is going to have their own voice and their own style. Jim will give you all the key details on the show and he’ll let you know some of his thoughts along the way as well. I plan on writing about NXT every week in a different format from my other reviews. That’s because I’m going to write in-depth about Raw, Smackdown and AEW’s show every week. We’re all figuring it out as we go. Take it away, Jim.

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The WWE NXT brand has long been considered WWE’s “developmental” division, but on September 18th, the brand made its jump to the USA Network. Let’s see what happened.

The show started with a promo from Triple H. The video was a close-up of Hunter’s face and followed him into the NXT Universe as it turned into a live shot of him walking into a sea of chanting fans. It was a very creative way to open the brand’s first episode on USA.

Fatal 4-Way: Io Shirai v Bianca Belair v Mia Yim v Candice LeRae

Shortly following the “NXT” chants, Io Shira’s music hit. She was part of a woman’s fatal 4-way to determine who will be the next challenger for Shayna Baszler’s championship belt. Shirai came out in a fury of chaos, then calmed into a quite composure as she waited for the remaining women to enter the ring. Bianca Belair was the next to enter. Nice pop from the crowd for her. She’s extremely talented. Hope to see a push for her soon. Mia Yim was the third competitor to enter the ring in this fatal 4-way. Mia Yim just had a bit of a mini push towards the Women’s NXT Championship. She pushed Baszler to her limit and had previously secured two(!) victories against Bianca Belair.

Candice LeRae was the last woman to enter and she went directly after Io Shirai. LeRae’s entire reason for entering this match was to get her hands on Io. It doesn’t take much to push a storyline in wrestling, just stay consistent with it. It’s nice to see that in the first match of the evening.

The first five minutes of this match were a wonderful showcase for each of these wrestler’s strengths and abilities. Belair showed off her power, while Yim and Io showed off their technique. It was received well from the fans before the first commercial break.

Following the break, we come back to the competitor’s performing a 4-woman Tower of Doom. The ToD was wonderfully executed and got a big pop from the crowd.

Toward the end of the match, nearly every competitor had a moment where they each performed their own finisher. Belair and Yim both had their cover’s interrupted before the “1-2-3.” In the end, Candice LeRae was the victor after an impressive offensive combination against Mia Yim. Her springboard moonsault landed really well and she grabbed the cover for the win.

Winner: Candice LeRae

Post match, NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler’s music hit. She was accompanied by her squad and they surrounded LeRae as an intimidation tactic. LeRae seemed bothered by it. She’ll be the obvious underdog babyface in her match with Baszler, the bully heel champion.

Adam Cole (Bay Bay), the NXT Champion, had a video promo followed by live shots of him and the Undisputed Era in the locker room. The camera then shifted to the Velveteen Dream backstage preparing for his match.

We were then given an update that #NXT was trending on Twitter.

Dominik Dijakovic v. Keith Lee was teased for next week. Those two have clashed in the past before and those are always “must-see.” Dijakovic won the last match, so I think Lee will come out victorious next week.

Sean Maluta v Cameron Grimes

This was a no contest. As soon as the bell rang, Mulata went after Grimes and Grimes hit him with the double foot stomp. Easy 1-2-3. This was odd because last week’s match was supposed to serve as a match that made Grimes look strong too. Why make him over-the-top tonight as well? I’m sure we’ll see what’s coming up for him in the next few weeks, but be prepared to see a lot more of him.

Winner: Cameron Grimes

North American Championship: Velveteen Dream (c) vs. Roderick Strong

Strong was the first to enter the ring. Dream followed with a predictably entertaining intro. “Jacked Ref” was officiating this match. It looks like he’s been trying to grow a beard. Don’t forget to throw love to our refs too! They work pretty hard in this business too. Velveteen Dream was on fire to start the match. He was getting good offense in on Strong, while also effectively playing the mind game. Strong was visibly frustrated outside of the ring after a few failed offensive maneuvers.

After a brief commercial break, we found Dream still unloading on Roderick Strong. Strong eventually countered to break Dream’s momentum. We were then reminded that the 2nd hour of the episode would air on the WWE Network.

Both men had some great back and forth action until Strong went for his “End of Heartache” finisher. Dream looked done. Against all odds he kicked out after a 2 count, only to then be held in Strong’s submission hold. Dream sold this well. The entire building was on its feet cheering for him to grab the rope. He crawled in agony and stretched his arm out to grab the rope and break the hold.

After the “near tap” moment, Dream was pushed into Jacked Ref and the ref laid unconscious. The Undisputed Era showed up ringside and waited to attack the Dream. Strong nailed Dream with another back-breaker and it appeared to be Dream’s demise, Jacked Ref woke up just in time for Dream to kick out at yet another two count. Big pop from the crowd for that near fall. The Undisputed Era played their cards right, distracted the ref and helped Strong pin Dream to finish the match. Prophecy Fulfilled.

Winner and new NXT North American Champion: Roderick Strong

The first hour of NXT went off the air with the Undisputed Era draped in gold. Time to switch over to WWE Network.

The top of hour 2 showed replays of the previous match between Strong and Dream as well as the women’s fatal 4-way finale. The replays set up a graphic for the LeRae v Baszler match in 2 weeks.

Pete Dunne v Arturo Ruas

Dunne entered the ring ready to break some bones. Arturo Ruas was his competitor in the night’s match.

At first glance, I thought this was going to be another squash match (much like the one Cameron Grimes had in the 1st hour). However, Dunne and Ruas put on a good performance. Pete Dunne let Ruas get in his offense early and sold well for him. For Pete Dunne to do this for Ruas, it shows more of a balance in the roster. You start to get the feeling every person has a chance to become a champion. Great performers getting rewarded for what they can do in the ring, what a concept.

Dunne gained offensive control in the second half of the match and never let go. His offense is simply ruthless. He has absolutely earned the nickname “Bruiserweight.” Pete Dunne emerged victorious after he got Ruas to tap. Those finger snap moves don’t ever get easier to watch.

Winner: Pete Dunne

After the Dunne v Ruas match, Lio Rush(!) v Oney Lorcan match was teased. Rush hasn’t been seen in months after some controversial backstage drama. It’s good to see him back on WWE TV. He’s a great heel on the mic and a wonderful in-ring performer.

Another Dakota Kai returning promo aired. She’ll be back next week.

Xia Li v Aliyah

If you’ve already seen the match, unfortunately, Xia Li had a pretty rough botch toward the finish. Botches happen and we all certainly don’t hope to see them happen again. Outside of that one move, she was incredibly impressive. Her entrance showed an impressive display of athleticism, her theme music gets people to inadvertently clap along, she’s alarmingly quick and strikes hard in the ring. I hope this match doesn’t derail any of her confidence or momentum. Even after the botch, she quickly recovered with some hard-hitting offense and took the quick cover for the victory.

Winner: Xia Li

Kushida was teased next. The second hour started to feel a bit more like a 205 live episode. I’m sure with a 2nd hour to cover on USA, adding in 205 Live superstars should make that extra hour easy to cover with quality wrestling.

Denzel DeJeounette was mid entrance after a break. His gimmick looked like if MC Hammer and Kris Kross were fused together. He was quickly surrounded by Imperium. “Where is Walter?” chants filled the arena as he was absent from the group beating up DeJeounette.

Without delay, Walter’s music hit hard and the crowd went wild. (Please give us another Walter v Pete Dunne someday soon!) He started on the mic only to be interrupted mid-promo by Kushida. Kushida played quite the sneaky babyface in thwarting Imperium. What an absolute match Kushida v Walter will be.

Lio Rush v Oney Lorcan

Rush is back. New haircut, but same slick quickness. It’s nice to see him back. Full Sail let out a “Welcome Back” chant as well. Rush looked strong right out the gate too. He had the crowd behind him throughout the entire match.

Oney’s power caught up to Rush and he hit him with some devastating slams. He got in some powerful offense of his own as well. Near the end of the match, Oney powered up, only to be hit with a stellar Spanish Fly from Lio Rush. Rush went top rope for the frog splash and got the 1-2-3. Throw him up to Drew Gulak now, he’s ready.

Winner: Lio Rush

The win by Rush means he gets a Cruiserweight Title shot against champion Drew Gulak.

Street Fight: Matt Riddle v Killian Dain

BRO! Riddle entered first. This guy is so talented. He’s coming off of a loss to Dain in their previous encounter and Dain has been getting booked pretty strong lately. Riddle has been pretty strong in the past too, so we’ll have to wait and see which way they’re going to take this.

The match quickly found its way backstage. NXT superstar cameos piled up as Riddle and Dain made their way further backstage. Riddle got into it with Walter (ok?) after tossing Dain through a table, then all hell broke loose.

The action made its way back inside and toward the ring. Nearly every NXT superstar was in or around the ring brawling with one another. Most of them were filtered out of the ring as Dain was the last standing inside. He hit half the roster with a suicide dive and that’s how NXT went off the air.

Winner: Match was a No Contest

Closing Thoughts

Great way to start the NXT brand on USA. The first hour was impressive, showing newer talent along with more recognizable names. We also saw a title change and some storylines start to blossom. There were 7 total matches in the 2-hour span and more than half of them were very entertaining. The black and gold brand has been a reliable source of in-ring entertainment both in quality and quantity. The first episode was promising. Let’s hope to see the brand build on the hard work they’ve already put into it.

 

 

 

The post WWE NXT Review Sept. 18, 2019 (Debut on USA Network) by Jim Kress appeared first on TJR Wrestling.