Retropective Rasslin' - A Month in the Crazy World of Pro Wrestling.
Jason gives us a monthly run down of all the action from AEW & IMPACT
Well, with February in the rear view (where did that go?) we find ourselves diving headfirst into the ongoing developments in IMPACT and AEW over the last 4 weeks or so - and frankly - with the amount we have to unpack, I wish I had FinJuice here to carry the luggage for me like the Big LG and Karl Anderson used to in their NJPW days!
Let's get started.
In the planning stages of this piece, I FULLY expected the AEW headline discussion to be centralised around the exciting, shocking developments with New Japan Pro Wrestling. Kenta showing up and smashing Mox with GTS at the culmination of the mixed quality Beach Break show, potentially changed the game again. Especially given Juice Robinson and David Finlay appearing on IMPACT wrestling, emphasising that this really does appear to be a wrestling fans Fire Pro fantasy match come to life.
But there's a caveat.
As great as it was to see the former Hideo Itami (how great was that no DQ tag match?), and the acknowledgement of New Japan, it's made me think about things just a little and consider what good the Forbidden Door and the Invisible Hand are doing for their respective promotions instead.
There's two talents that have given me cause to pause and think about the direction this is moving in, those being Sammy Guevara, and Tommy Dreamer.
Enough has been said on the situation with Sammy, but if you've missed it, you can find it here.
Ultimately, he states on Dynamite that he needs time away from 'here'. The obvious thing was Impact, right? But there's all sorts of rumours that Black Taurus played the part that Sammy should have been given as he refused what IMPACT creative offered him.
For my money, that was the correct decision. Sammy is money right now, and I feel that this could be a period of time where he receives a rub much like an impressionable Randy Orton did during the Evolution run.
Additionally, Tommy Dreamer was pretty explicit about his view on 'booking 101' following a ‘paid ad’ that maybe cut a little deep. If you haven’t seen the ad, you can find it here. You can also see the content of Tommy's Tweet here.
Again, he's not wrong. So far, given how much this angle has been promoted - particularly by AEW on IMPACT with their paid ads - I'd have expected involvement from more participants.
The only IMPACT stars we've seen appear on Dynamite so far, are Kenny's buddies. Yet we have AEW tag team contenders to IMPACT tag championships. It feels one sided, and my major concern here is that we've seen 'one sided' before, when the WWE gave us the Invasion PPV that is - and for good reason - universally panned.
There's no conclusion to this as it stands, it's an ongoing situation that could change any Tuesday or Wednesday. I just hope that Tony Khan has learned from previous wrestling mistakes, and heeded the words of Tommy Dreamer, in that there's nothing valiant in burying your competition. Being victorious over a weak enemy doesn't make you look strong.
Tony Khan, AEW
Speaking of strength, let's talk the psychological kind. I wouldn't be psychologically strong enough to take part in an Exploding Barbed Wire Death match, but apparently Kenny Omega is.
We don't need to mention Mox here, because let's be fair, anyone who has seen Mox in pre WWE action knows exactly what he was used to in that previous life.
This was a serious curve ball when I got wind of the announcement, which I'll confess to reading about before seeing on Dynamite. Lights Out was one thing, but I'm not sure (I think not...) if we've ever seen an Exploding Barbed Wire Death match in a major western promotion before. God knows that Schiavone is looking forward to it!
I know some fans are really upset and unhappy about this, as there has been blowback in the past based on the more violent side of the AEW presentation (Lights Out, chair shot, Cody/Dustin) but you know what?
Mox is bang on the money in a recent interview. Don't like it? Don't watch. I'll be getting this one.
Things to come? Certainlly looks like it!
Monthly Mat Musings -
- Whenever there's a 'wrestling wedding' a little part of the fan in me dies. That didn't change at Beach Break. Miro continues to irritate me, and I just can't see what any of these guys are gaining from this. Hopefully the match at Revolution will put this debacle to bed.
- Speaking of debacles, the sooner this Shaq programme is done, the better. The whole thing just feels like 90's WCW. That is NOT a compliment. 'Inside the NBA' was dire, the '90's talk show' promo's bring the product down. Jade Cargill is surely capable of SO much more than this, and we KNOW Cody is.
- On the subject - Real Rasslin' dropped the Paul Wight news as soon as the tweets hit from AEW. That was a shocker. Wonder if he'll involve himself with Cody and we'll get that Shaq v Big Show/Giant/Paul Wight match we never got...? Can it be worse than the current mess? I hope not.
- As the voice of so many iconic moments during my childhood, it's fair to say that JRs best commentary days are well and truly behind him.
Getting a battle royal and a lumberjack match muddled up at Beach Break, and then calling Omega as the WWE champion weeks later..., I get that accidents happen. A slip of the tongue can be excused, but these are pretty frequent. But on a commentary positive...
- Despite the missteps, how rad (yeah, I said rad) was it to have the late 1990's all-star commentary team on Dynamite? Ross, Schiavone and Cyrus (Don Callis) were all representing the 'Big 3' way back when, in WWF/E, WCW & ECW respectively.
- I saw Pac the first time at an RQW show at London's York Hall way back in 2006 - a stacked card that also featured Sheamus O'Shaunessy and Drew McIntyre/Galloway in their infancy.
He was awesome then, he's awesome now. No nonsense, and hard as nails.
- Brian Cage protecting the hell out of Sting with that Powerbomb and looking awesome iin the process.
- When did Lance Archer's babyface turn happen? I can't put my finger on it. One minute he's a babyface killer, ruining your favourites every week. Now, he's a legit World Championship contender and a raging babyface himself.
It doesn't feel wrong, or jarring, so well played to AEWs team on this one. I for one am loving his work. That match with Fenix - more on him below - was every bit as good as I expected but – oh wait, heel again. Shades of grey, I guess.
- I can't wait for Hangman's eventual world title run. The guy has that 'X-Factor' in my opinion.
The inevitable retribution angle with Kenny is going to be delightful.
- Is there anyone more consistently entertaining than Rey Fenix? Not for my money.
- Constantly mentioning Matt Hardy's 'substantial' first quarter salary seems a little insensitive to the plight of many normal, working class people whose lives have been turned upside down by a global pandemic.
Maybe I'm just oversensitive.
- Yep. I'm super excited for Revolution. Tons of potential in that one. Though it seems clear to me that Mox will be laid to rest here, and move into a continuation of the Eddie Kingston feud.
I'll confess to being a little old fashioned in my view of Pro wrestling, I'll be honest. The bottom line (thanks Steve) should be the relevant companies World Heavyweight Championship. Not always, there's some gimmicks that just don't lend itself to the title due to being too 'out there' or just not relevant, and if EVERYONE was a world title contender, there would be no room for any of the other wonderful circus attractions that pro wrestling offers us every week. Let's be fair though, no one would buy into Johnny Swinger suddenly developing an interest in Championships because - well, why would he? Thus we have characters that are exempt from that train of thought.
And that's fine.
Wrestling is the muscular, baby-oiled equivalent of the Royal Variety Performance - something for everyone, even if some of it makes you wish your missus hadn't walked in while you were watching!
We've all been there...
That being said, the top of the card should be populated by those who want to be at the pinnacle of their craft, as the clichéd 'King of the mountain' (Cheers Double J).
One of the frustrations that really got me with WWE's product at points, and a contributing factor as to why I eventually switched off was the championship scene.
Marquee matches were being placed at the very top of the card, over the title matches.
I made it very clear in last month's article that I found IMPACT to be lacking in choice and - key word - believable contenders for their big strap.
Rich Swann is a fantastic in-ring talent, and I 100% supported the push he received and continues to carry, but on experiencing a Rich Swann Title run, I'm a little less than enamoured with it. He's missing something, and I feel that that something is presence.
In fairness, he's not alone.
There's very few these days that carry themselves the way champions of old did, and many will attribute that lack of star power to the downturn in ratings. Triple H, Steve Austin, The Rock, Sting, Flair, Hogan, Lesnar, Dusty Rhodes - these are guys that had it. Effortlessly carrying themselves as the top guy, the man to beat. They had charisma and/or presence - (the two are very different, as is showcased by Brock Lesnar on this list. Charisma. Nope. Presence. In spades…) - that was undeniable (thanks Tessa).
Have you ever been to a store, and after having a disagreement with a pretentious member of staff, asked to speak to the manager only to be told 'I am the Manager'?
You walk away thinking 'Seriously? How are they the manager?!'
That staff member, to me, is Rich Swann.
The guy that is, literally, punching above his (heavy)weight. Yeah cool, look at his CV (résumé for my friends over the Atlantic) and it presents nicely. Good work ethic, maybe a company man, young, new blood, with a history of incredible matches dating back to 2019 when he first started taking steps into the bigger picture.
But you can't demonstrate presence until you're put in that position. The same as natural leaders, they thrive under that pressure when stepping up - Rich hasn't stepped up, he's just the same Rich Swann, but with an added accessory. And that same Rich Swann doesn't represent, to me at least, someone I would take seriously as the figurehead of the company. This is not a personal attack, some people just aren't cut out for it - I said the same about Ziggler in WWE, Chris Sabin in TNA and others. There's room for supporting players, and I'll not be surprised if Swann becomes a one run champion, relegated to upper mid card and dethroned by someone I believed to be the same some years ago but have done a full 180° turn on... Please welcome..
Moose. You knew it, right?
I was wrong. I admit it. And I'm not going to elaborate too much, as I made my views known last month. But if I had an award for most consistently improved - Moose would have it.
He's worked on his gimmick, which I'm enjoying, he's worked on his physique - let's be fair, the man is terrifyingly huge - and he's clearly been working on his in ring skills if recent performances are anything to go by, never mind the improved look. Moose winning the IMPACT championship - to go alongside his newly recognised TNA championship - seems like a forgone conclusion, a case of when over 'if'.
But who else?
If I had any immediate thoughts on this, I'd go with two men. One is a risk, and another, in my view, is a singles champ in waiting.
Let’s start with the sure thing. Josh Alexander. Putting in some cracking X-Division work at present, we know that Josh held himself well as a champion as he and Ethan Page (what happened to that guy...?) ruled the Tag Team roost in IMPACT for some time.
As mentioned, his work with TJP and the X-Division crowd has been a really fun diversion and has added a new dynamic to the mix. I just wish he'd change his look. Not comparing him as such, but it reminds me when Marty Jannetty was (literally) kicked out of the Rockers. Shawn completely reinvented himself, Marty appeared wearing the same Rockers tights, with the same Rockers music. Move. On.
You’re better than that Josh.
And lose the singlet. You're built like a mountain. Show it off.
The outside option - don't hate me - Matt Cardona. And this is a risk not just because he's a WWE guy, and the company clearly gets flak for putting their top strap on anyone that took a drive from New York. But also because he's been a perpetual mid card talent - at best - throughout his entire career.
I believe that Cardona has always had the tools to move forward. He has the charisma, he has the presence and he's a much bigger guy than anyone gives him credit for. Whether his past will allow him to move past the shortcomings that come with the stigma of being a glorified enhancement guy is anyone's guess.
Staying on the subject of Championships and IMPACT Wrestling, maybe I'm looking at this from the wrong perspective. So I've mentioned that the champ has the presence of a mid-card champion, but maybe that's appropriate given the fact that the premier championship in IMPACT seems not to be the World Heavyweight Championship, but seems in fact to be the Tag Team Championship?
Featured in such a prominent role on IMPACT since their debut, the Good Bros haven't even had that many championship defences, instead playing a huge part in the ongoing inter-promotional mayhem that's been on display from Kenny Omega and Don Callis.
This continued on Impact with a curious exchange between FinJuice and the Good Bros. A strange, passive aggressive promo from Gallows and Anderson set the stage for yet more arrogance from the champions.
Just watch the credits of Impact these days and it becomes clear that these guys are front and centre having more focus than the title holder. The tag champions are the IMPACT representatives for AEW as has already been discussed - for better or worse - and it's going to be interesting to see where they go when their run eventually ends, and who will be the team to dethrone them.
Are we getting a nod here toward the titles leaving North America for a tenure in the land of the rising sun? I know what my thoughts are.
The most high profile Championships on IMPACT wrestling? You betcha.
Monthly Mat Musings
- the amount of beer drinking and partying that goes on in IMPACT Wrestling, Im starting to think it's THE place to work. Which leads me to...
- Swingers Palace. I genuinely love these segments. I don't know what the endgame is, and I don't think I care. Swinger cracks me up, and I loved poor Rohit getting his head decorated with a beer bottle courtesy of IMPACTs resident Cowboy.
- I'm hoping the ongoing Havok and Neveah feud with Fire and Flava/Tenille Dashwood doesn't end in the liquidation of their team. I think they bring a unique dynamic to the Knockouts Tag Division and that it's far too early to drive a stake through it.
- Following Deaners loss to Jake Something at No Surrender, the vignette with VbD was wonderful. I love the sickness, I love the cult feel and I think the former Deaners, who provided much of the (fabulous) comic relief in Wrestle House, have been given a far more sinister narrative to work with since their return. And besides, who doesn't love starting a show with Tables?
- Wrestle House. When can we expect S2?
- TK now has a gimmick? So Don Callis is the invisible Hand, and TK is the Forbidden Door... I hope these characters don't go too far. The 'dastardly evil owner' is a trope that is not overdue for a rehash just yet - seriously, it's not best for business. On the subject, Scott D'Amore's work as the fair, self-aware authority figure? More of this please.
- Actually laughed out loud when TK said in his - still great fun - paid commercial that he was writing the costs off as a charitable donation. A great way to poke fun at IMPACTs previous fiscal woes, and to paint him as a heel for IMPACT viewers. That being said, and I touched on this in the AEW section - there's a chance these could be going too far, as mentioned by Tommy Dreamer. We need a relatively level playing field if this is going to work.
And everybody wants it to work.
- A large part of this month's topic was talking about the championship, and the lack of presence in the roster. Being that as it is, I wonder if Scott D'Amore should be charging for promo support.
His speech to Moose - reinstating the defunct TNA World Heavyweight Championship - was full of fire and pure passion. There's not enough of that these days.
So that's it for this month folks. I'll see you all at the end of March, where I'm sure we'll all still be talking about the inevitable AEW Revolution fallout.
Don't forget, if you enjoyed the article, let's hear it in the comments. Give it a like or a laugh, or whatever else, leave a comment or get in touch on Twitter. Don't forget to follow Real Rasslin' on all relevant social media for the latest news and discussions, and you can find me live across various platforms, including Twitch and Facebook, every other Monday on the 2 Men and Their Mics Podcast.
Speak next month wrestling fans!