Weekly Wrestling Write-Up: Season's Beatings!
Welcome to the final blog of 2019! The first one out of the gates next year will hopefully be the last of my "Best of the 2010s" series, where we count down the Top 40 (that's right, no typo, Top 40) Matches of the past decade. (I ended up getting it out early, check it out on the home page)
But for the here and now, we look at the final week's offering from WWE! AEW are out of the races this week, giving their talent Christmas off and returning on New Year's Day. And, to be fair to Vince and company, the talent are actually getting Christmas off too, with this week's edition of Raw actually taped last week in Des Moines, Iowa.
This Weekly Wrestling Write-Up series is new to me, and what I've taken to doing for it is writing it in fragments as I watch each show. As I write this, the clock has passed midnight from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day. I'm staying over at Mum's, as is our yearly tradition, and we did a present swap with my best mate/adopted brother/neighbour Cam on Christmas Eve arvo. Mum wasn't feeling well- she's one of the only people I know that suffers from worse pain and fatigue than me- so she went for a lie-down. While she snoozed, I watched Raw. Then I crashed. So Christmas Eve was mostly full of snoozing, and I'm fairly wide awake at 12:13am. Let's talk about what happened on the red brand.
-Seth Rollins and AOP- Talk about an act that just clicks. Seth is great as the self-righteous, borderline delusional heel that believes he's completely in the right, and the Authors of Pain add an undeniable element of danger that makes the trio come across as a legitimate force of Raw. The ending of Raw where AOP put Samoa Joe through the announce table was intriguing... looks like Joe is back in the ring much sooner than I thought!
-Kevin Owens- I would have thought that KO would be essentially a career heel. He was so good at being a jackass that it seemed like he could never really pull off being a good guy. Then he had a quick turn as a babyface earlier in the year as this relatable everyman, and it worked really well, but it was short-lived as Kofi Kingston needed a credible challenger for the WWE Championship. This time around, Owens has been given the time to settle into a babyface role, and he's smashed it. He doesn't exactly pander to the fans, but they're responding extremely well to him as he displays his quick wit and general badass attitude.
-Rusev- his positive demeanour as a single man after ditching Lana has been a great character shift. Plus, check out those dance moves with No Way Jose's conga line!
-Orton & The Viking Raiders vs. The OC- really nicely laid out, where the Raiders fought their asses off to cover for an injured Orton, and the Club took advantage of Randy's dodgy knee to get the victory. Orton dropping the Good Brothers before taking the Phenomenal Forearm gives him an out for the loss. Well played all around.
-Seth Rollins vs. Rey Mysterio- this first time ever match was a lot of fun. Obviously, they didn't go all out given the non-finish, but there were still flashes of brilliance there.
-Lana & Lashley- make it stop! Rusev's over, but that's in spite of this storyline, not because of it. Lana's acting and promos continue to be at a 3rd grade level.
-24/7 Segments- R-Truth has jumped the shark, and Tozawa isn't as entertaining a foil for him as Maverick was. I got a small kick out of Santa winning the championship, though.
-Roderick Strong vs. Austin Theory- This was a major shocker, and the NXT TV debut of Theory happening on the Christmas Day episode really took me by surprise- it gave the usually pointless holiday episode a real sense of importance. They worked a really good Takeover-level match, and Theory has a super bright future- great look and an impressive combo of power and speed in his wrestling style.
-Isaiah Swerve Scott vs. Jack Gallagher- it was good to see Gallagher get some time to shine, he's incredibly underrated, and to hold his own for so long against a hot new prospect like Swerve might mean fortunes changing for the better in 2020 for the Gentleman.
-Shotzi Blackheart vs. Bianca Belair- Another big debut on Christmas for Blackheart, who was super impressive on the Evolve 10th Anniversary special on the WWE Network, throwing herself around with reckless abandon, and doing more of the same in her first NXT appearance here against Belair.
-Keith Lee & Lio Rush vs. Damian Priest & Tony Nese- This was really cool and unique. Holiday hijinks aside, I loved seeing the heavyweights mix it up with the cruiserweights- one drawback of the revived cruiserweight division is that it has been completely self-contained in its own universe on 205 Live. Made for a fresh dynamic... and bruh Keith Lee is crazy strong, catching the 270 pound Priest mid air off a tope con hilo! Goddamn.
- Dominick Dijakovic vs. Bronson Reed. I hate to say it because I'm a big fan of both guys, and have enjoyed a lot of their previous matches individually... but this wasn't good. Far too slow-paced, and too long working certain spots. This isn't the 1980s, working a side headlock for 2 straight minutes doesn't cut it.
-The opening with Elias- As Elias returns from injury, he hasn't quite found his place on the roster. But he's really over, so using him in the "hype man" role to do a song was a fun and different way to start the show.
- Bryan vs. Corbin vs. Miz- I really liked that this was threaded throughout the whole show. At first, it was set to be the big opening match on Smackdown to determine who would face The Fiend at the Royal Rumble PPV. Then Roman Reigns got involved to throw it out before it got started. Then Corbin showed cowardice in refusing to compete, so we had Bryan vs. Miz mid-show. Then Reigns was "escorted out of the building" so Corbin agreed to wrestle the scheduled match in the main event. Nothing spectacular about the way it was done, but I appreciate when effort is made to have an actual story run through the episode. The triple threat got good down the stretch, with Bryan and Miz showing excellent chemistry due to how well they know each other.
-Braun dances- a little silliness and humour is good in small doses. Strowman plays it well, and he can afford to be occassionally goofy, considering he's always a physical threat, so having some fun dancing around doesn't damage his credibility. Gave me a nice laugh.
-None. You know what, I'm in a giving mood. Not to say this was a perfect show, but there was nothing on it I actively disliked. Not quite sure where the Mandy/Otis thing is going, but I'm living vicariously through the big lad. Also, Lacey Evans is finding herself as a babyface, and the crowd got behind her fierce mama bear deal. Those two elements were the only slightly shaky things, but I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt for now.
What really impressed me about this week of WWE TV as a whole is that they treated each episode as still being canon and relevant to the upcoming PPV. I've been watching for too many years and seen WWE really phone it in from a creative standpoint, with half-assed matches, angles and storylines at certain times of the year. December as a whole in WWE history is usually like that, but especially the week of Christmas, they drive every holiday gimmick they can think of into the ground. That wasn't the case this week. NXT was especially noteworthy for the debuts of Austin Theory and Shotzi Blackheart, and they balanced the two venue set-up quite well, between matches filmed at Full Sail, and others at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It was good to see Tom Phillips back on the headset too, he's a good commentator and I believe he should be on Smackdown instead of Michael Cole. He seemed excited to have this NXT assignment (harkening back to his start in WWE), and was keen to provide factoids about NXT's storied history in Brooklyn.
Raw and Smackdown were two solid shows as well. I can't help but think everyone was a little more dialed in than usual on Christmas week, and that may be due to AEW taking the week off TV. But the All Elite boys (and girls) will be back on New Year's Day in Jacksonville, and I'll be watching and covering it all.
I hope everyone reading has a great New Year. Hopefully you're spending it with people you love, having a lot of fun, and good luck with those resolutions!
Until next time, take care,