‘m here to focus on the positive, not the negative. Here in Internet land, the WWE gets a lot of heat. The IWC like to tear it apart each week. But not here. Here I plan to spread a little love, in a handy list format. Us guys called Chris love lists. Unlike Jericho’s though, if you’ve made ‘The List Of Foxon’, it’s a good thing.
For fans of all things squared circle, this week all the focus was on Japan, but for the boys and the girls at WWE, it was business as usual. Be sure to check out our in depth review of Wrestle Kingdom 11 and all the crazy happenings in NJPW. In the meantime, I’ll tell you all the things i liked across WWE programming this week. Rest assured, I will not be talking about the absolute garbage storm that was “Bring It To The Table”. Positive, Chris. Stay positive.
1. Braun Strowman vs Sami Zayn
Let’s start with Raw. I loved that Raw opened up with Stephanie McMahon complaining that Smackdown’s ratings were higher than Raw’s for the first time in history. It shows that they are aware that Smackdown has taken the ball and is running with it. It also makes it feel like Smackdown and Raw are separate brands, because for a while now, they have just felt like extensions of the same show. Hopefully this will lead to the brands not advertising each other’s PPVs and live shows… No, that’s silly. Of course they will. I wish they wouldn’t.
My highlight of Raw was, predictably, the last man standing match between Braun Strowman and Sami Zayn. I could talk about Kevin Owens vs Seth Rollins, but they are 2 of the greatest talents on earth, we have seen this match many times, and every time it impresses. The match of the night came from Zayn and Strowman. It was gritty. It was epic. It was all over the place, choppy and a bit silly. However, unlike Mick Foley’s haircut, for which i could use some of those adjectives, the match was perfect.
Sami started the match with a kendo stick. We hardly ever see weapons from the start. It’s understandable that the WWE traditionally builds the match before the weapons fly, but in this instance, a desperate Sami attacked the monster from the get go. Braun did a wonderful job no-selling every shot with the kendo sticks. They looked like they did no damage at all, even though, judging by the state of Strowman’s back, they did.
The match spilled into the backstage area where Strowman threw Sami around like an unwanted Christmas present. At one point throwing him on to a big pile of boxes. Braun took one hell of a table bump from the side of the ramp, and still managed to get up before the count reached 5, let alone 10. Strowman looked unstoppable, beating Sami with a brutal running powerslam on the outside of the ring. Great match that did exactly as it needed to for Strowman heading into the Royal Rumble.
Later in the show, Braun Strowman took a double spear from Roman Reigns and Goldberg, but this is an article about what I liked, so I won’t be talking about that. I do like this Goldberg though. I also really liked the sign for The Kevin Owens Show, which was a random dude, stood in the ring, with the sign strapped to his head. Jericho’s in the Rumble too.
2. Heel Ziggler
Smackdown Live next!
Since Survivor Series, and probably for a few weeks prior, Smackdown has been far better than Raw. The 2 hour running time seems to be what many have settled on as the reason for this, especially if you watched “Bring It To The Table”… we won’t get in to that. Directly after Smackdown we get 205 live and directly after that we get Talking Smack. That’s 4 hours of content, not 3. So, if anything we put more hours in on Tuesdays than Mondays. Therefore I have concluded that it’s not the running time that makes Smackdown better, it’s the simple fact that Smackdown is better.
…and it’s about to get even better!
Moments after a great match with Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler kicked Kalisto in the face. Dolph Ziggler kicked Kalisto in the face!
Do any of you like the music of Papa Roach? I reckon you all do, everybody loves Papa Roach, yet, they are nobody’s favourite band. Everybody loves Ziggler. His ability to tell a story, his facial expressions and his selling are all second to none. Great in the ring and great on the mic, everything Ziggler has ever done has been so believable. Yet, nobody would say he is their favourite wrestler. You don’t even see many of his t-shirts in the crowd. He is the Papa Roach of the WWE.
Last time Ziggler was heel, he was in a mini faction with Big E and AJ Lee. It was so much fun. They were detestable. Yet the WWE, understandably, saw something in Ziggler. A good looking, charismatic, hard worker who got the pop of all pops when he cashed in his Money In The Bank briefcase against Alberto Del Rio. Why wouldn’t they turn him babyface? It made sense and it was fun, but he never reached the height he could have. Until he kicked Kalisto in the face!
He then went on to cause chaos backstage, getting in the face of Apollo Crews, the man who I hope is the first victim of Ziggler’s dirty antics.
The whole of the Internet was, still is, screaming out for a John Cena heel turn, or a Roman Reigns heel turn, but I have been quietly sitting here waiting for the Dolph Ziggler heel turn. Yay! Can we have the “I Am Perfection” entrance music back too? Please.
3. Let’s Go Cena, Cena Sucks
The other stories on Smackdown Live were aplenty. We had La Luchadora again, which was fun. It would be so much fun to see a lumberjack match between Alexa Bliss and Becky Lynch with 15 La Luchadoras surrounding the ring. The segment with Carmella and Ellsworth was interesting, not interesting enough to talk about, but I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes. Carmella is great. The Miz has dropped the Intercontinental Championship, as I predicted here last week. The sky is now the limit for The Miz and Maryse after another great showing on Talking Smack.
The front page story, however, is the big fight at the Royal Rumble between 2016 WWE MVP, AJ Styles and Mr WWE himself, John Cena. The guys are working fantastically to make this feel like the most important fight in the whole company. It’s starting to feel more important than that pesky, hour long, 30 man match that’s going to get in the way at the end of the month. I can’t wait to see AJ and Cena go at it again. During the contract signing, both superstars pled their cases for why they are better, nothing we haven’t heard before. AJ called Cena a “part timer” and a “has been”, saying Smackdown does just fine without him. Cena called AJ a bitch for “pissing off John Cena” and shouted about passion and love. It was all good, I like seeing these guys yell at each other, they are both so good at it.
The segment was broken up by Baron Corbin, who seems to be in the middle of his first big push. Baron has been good the last few weeks, and the push is deserved. He is a big, athletic dude who will look great on posters. His push is probably going to be halted for a few weeks, as he will be fed to Cena next week to make him look strong going into this big match with Styles, but the future is bright for Corbin, who entered himself into the Rumble Match.
4. TWO OH! FIVE
I don’t even know where to begin with 205 live. It was so good!
OK, I do know where to start: Jack Gallagher! This guy is pure entertainment. I’m so excited knowing he is part of the roster and I can see him every week. The duel last week with, the equally as entertaining, Aryia Daivari was TV gold and the recap of it we have seen this week with added sound effects was just brilliant. This week we saw Gallagher against Tony Nese. Can I just add a side note? It is so cool that Tony Nese and Drew Gulak wear full suits when they accompany the other to the ring, I love stuff like that. Adds a certain charm to their pairing. The match between Gallagher and Nese was great, both guys looking like technical wizards. Gallagher with such a unique, comical style and Nese the ripped powerhouse. The match was an entertaining back and forth until Daivari interfered to push the feud onwards. I’m fine with that.
Before that we had the return of the Japanese Buzzsaw, Tajiri. After winning his match he was greeted by a patronising Brian Kendrick who claimed he and Tajiri were cut from the same cloth. I marked out like crazy when Tajiri spat the green mist in the face of Kendrick. That was cool! I expect we will be seeing it on Raw in the coming weeks.
The storyline surrounding Alicia Fox was also moved along nicely. Noam Dar picking up another loss in a great match with Mustafa Ali, who, I’ll confess, I don’t remember from the Cruiserweight Classic. The smarmy Scotsman, Dar is playing the part perfectly as he advances on the timid Fox, much to the dismay of her boyfriend, Cedric Alexander. We haven’t seen a juicy love triangle for a while. Alicia Fox is an underrated actress, and she is absolutely beautiful, I’m happy where this is going. This is the WWE, so I imagine Foxy will soon betray Alexander and we can see Noam Dar grow to be the arrogant heel soon enough.
The biggest draw to 205 live, though, the thing that has gotten me on board, is Neville. I don’t need to say much about this, it’s being said everywhere. He is phenomenal. His new music, his evil facials, his new move-set, it’s like he is a different person, and at the same time he is the same Neville that took NXT to the next level. This is the kind of program we wanted him to get on the main roster. It took a while, but here he is! And that German Suplex!!!! Mama Mia! I’ve watched it on repeat all day.
If you are not on board with 205 Live, now is the time to jump on the band wagon. I really enjoyed it this week, and I hope we see a few of these guys in the Royal Rumble match.
I still haven’t seen NXT, there is an awful lot of wrestling this week, but what I saw of the cage match between Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura was fantastic.
Also, massive congratulations to 2 of my favourite women in the world of wrestling. Firstly, Kimber Lee for signing a contract with the WWE, I can’t wait to see her on my TV very soon, having seen her at a few indie shows. Secondly, Asuka for just become the longest reigning women’s champion in NXT history, great news.
See you all next week.