Imp’s Wrestling Adventure
The penultimate week of September! I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited to see October, not usually a month on the wrestling calendar that screams anticipation. This year however, Jesus Christ does everything change in two weeks!
NXT has already started their migration to USA, with their half debut outperforming the network’s long running hit series Suits. So that ain’t a bad sign! SmackDown’s about to wrap up its final show next week before moving to FOX, a shift that could change the landscape of WWE with Fridays becoming the flagship show for the company. Then finally that same week there’s the small matter of AEW debuting on TNT, the arrival of the first serious wrestling alternative in over 18 years.
With RAW however, it’s more the ripple effects from the changes around them that’ll reach their shores the most. If anything, with 9 hours of wrestling on national television every week there’s a real competition for viewer’s time. There’s so much that most people simply won’t be able to watch it all and will have to choose: do you ignore NXT or AEW? Drop either RAW or SmackDown? Drop one of those pairings completely?
With so much choice we the consumers are the absolute winners, but I personally think I’m a tad of a mad man for trying to attempt to cover it all. 9 hours a week! Madness!
And a quick ANNOUNCEMENT: Starting the first week of OCTOBER this column will move to SATURDAYs. Nice and bold so it’s impossible to miss, really the only day I can post and hope to cover it all. We’ve got a full week of wrestling on the horizon, brace for the 4,000 word columns. That’s more a note for me than it is for you… let’s get on to this week of wrestling shall we?
Monday Night RAW | SmackDown Live
September 16th– 17th 2019
All Hail King Corbin!
Yowie Wowie In A Cell
Last week on LOP Radio (where I’m live every Thursday at 7est, cheap plug!) I was talking about how the Strowman vs Rollins feud had so little heat going into it, the quick build with them becoming RAW Tag Team Champions simply didn’t work. However, the world around them has been built up incredibly well. The boat of RAW being steadied/developed, but at the cost of the Universal title match.
Once the feud was over and the two started to interact with that world around them, RAW would be all the better for it. And the only cost was a meh championship feud at a B PPV? Pretty good trade if you ask me.
We’ve seen that come to fruition in absolute spades with the rise of The Fiend, quite arguably the hottest act on Monday Night RAW going today. The time investment building him up, getting his gimmick over, giving it depth, making the character feel special, creating that aura where you never know when he’ll show up and whenever he does it’s a huge occasion you can’t look away from.
An amazing example of holding back and taking your time developing a character, I’m now so invested in Wyatt and seeing him interact with the world. Which is what made this first segment with Seth Rollins so interesting, for the first time seeing someone directly interact with the Firefly Funhouse version of Wyatt. The warnings to run from the puppets, the messages veiled in children’s TV like presentation before meeting The Fiend face to face in horrifying fashion to end the show.
An ‘interesting’ bout to close the show, in the course of a month Roode has gone from a 24/7 nobody to main eventing as RAW Tag Champion against Seth Rollins. That’s some ‘from Michael McGillicutty into Curtis Axel beating Triple H’ type shit right there. With Ziggler jumping Rollins the beat down began and brought out AJ Styles, Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows of The O. C. to make it 5 on 1. This is what brought out local Knoxville mayor Kane to even the odds!
Poor Seth, things didn’t get much better.
Hell’s favourite demon fought of the 5 heels, but when he went for his trademark post-match pyro the lights switched off and we entered the Silent Hill of The Fiend! The crowd may have popped for Kane, but man were they arguably even more excited to see Wyatt appear and slap on the Mandible Claw.
We then ended on one hell of a visual with The Fiend crawling over to Rollins in the corner amongst flashing lights and shouting something at him in a rather creepy manner. Then cue an almost 2 minute video of the Family Funhouse theme, but it distorts and flips upside down and flickers and whatnot. Neat idea to end the show, a whole 2 minutes was a bit much, but still an awesome way to end RAW following the surprise attack.
The Fiend is special, that act is money. Now comes the real test though, with the build to Hell In A Cell and the match itself. We all know WWE’s recent track record, you’re all perfectly in the right to be hesitant in getting fully invested in any of the characters or arcs they present. Out of everything though, this is the one. This is the character, this is the arc. They can make a star here, all they need to do is not overthink it come Hell In A Cell and book some weird bollocks.
They’ve put in the work when it comes to The Fiend, now it’s time to reap the rewards. So fingers crossed, this is the most invested I’ve been in a character WWE have presented in quite some time. Not rushing things pays off.
2019 King of the Ring
Quick mini pet peeve out the way because this match was great, it’s your favourite thing for me to rant about: production!
A month long tournament, a huge success building an incredible amount of momentum for multiple wrestlers across the promotion. So when it’s time for the final you’d hope it would feel like a big deal, right? Like these two competitors had accomplished something momentous by making it all the way to final?
Well in WWE’s world that means one match card, no promo package, the first competitor just walking out after a comedy skit AND during said entrance there’s graphics all over the screen as the commentators hype other stuff to come later on the show. I said at the start that we’d see how valuable the King of the Ring tournament was being held by the end of it, nothing screams ‘prestigious’ more than your commentators literally talking about anything else as the final’s about to take place as 3rd match on the card.
It’s the little things with WWE, but there’s a lot of them and they add up. They end up being mostly responsible as to why you feel like you should be hyped for matches, but you’re not. It’s all in the producing, the presentation, focusing on that one thing to make it feel important. If we the viewer were told one thing about the King of the Ring Final during the entrances, it wasn’t that it was ‘important’.
Plug all that crap before Baron Corbin makes his entrance, show the fancy Tale of the Tape beforehand and cut to the ad break in advance so it’s all together in one swift hype. They were still bringing up KOTR graphics during Chad Gable’s entrance, yes it’s good to inform your audience, but not when you’re cutting and splicing during the presenting of your finalists. And if the question back is, “What? You’d rather have to cut during the match to ad breaks?” Well that’s also an easy fix, put the bleeding thing on PPV.
You know what, this one’s partly on me, I’ve broken my one rule with WWE: whatever you do don’t get invested. You will be punished. It’s a shame, because once the entrances were made the presentation completely switched to telling us this match indeed was a big deal. As is often the case with modern day WWE, the match itself knocked it out of the park. The ‘production value’ of WWE is sky high, the actual running of said producing has picked up so many bad habits.
Baron Corbin vs Chad Gable
All that and he never even get to sit on the bleedin’ thing.
Banging Cadbury’s outfit from Chad. I’m assuming it was meant to be the purple and gold colours of the King of the Ring, but sorry all I could think about was Cadbury’s chocolates.
How awesome was that final sequence into the End of Days? Hell, how amazing were those final few minutes? With Gable seemingly having the big man down and about to tap, only for it not to be enough and for Corbin to pull out one more explosive counter for the win. This was a bloody fantastic match, right from the get go as they sent to commercial via Gable devastatingly taking flight through the ring announcer’s chair.
Corbin was the heel counter specialist, cutting Gable back down as soon as the lad had fought back some momentum. The smaller man did an amazing job in that underdog role, at one point cutting his opponent down and beating the crap out of him once he was at his level. I love the run Kurt Angle’s actual son had through this King of the Ring, for me the peak development point coming from a Samoa Joe promo as the Samoan ripped into him for the small man insults working/proving his weakness.
Gable may have pulled a shock ‘OMG I WON?!’ face after every victory, but I can’t ignore how effectively that man has gotten over with it all. It’s part of what made this final so damn great in my eyes, a babyface who’s amazing at getting you to root for him and a heel who’s a master at getting a crowd to turn and boo the living crap out of him. You put those two together and you’ve got one hell of a combination, fair to say there’s a reason WWE immediately set up an angle between the two on SmackDown the next night.
I’m all in on Evil King Corbin and Underdog of the Ring Gable, another great example of having two acts build up their characters before interacting with each other. 2019’s King of the Ring proved tournaments are perfect for building up that kind of thing, now we’re seeing two mid-card acts benefiting from it. Both men are in their perfect roles, flippin’ nailed it WWE.
You know, aside from the presentation/production stuff I ranted about.
Eric Rowan, Daniel Bryan & Luke Harper
(And Roman Reigns Killing Time Before He Faces Brock Again)
Who predicted Rowan would be the star cutting promos and Harper the muscle?
Is… is this storyline good now? Nah, that can’t be it. I find it interesting the top feuds on both brands are both Shield vs Wyatt Family, that Elimination Chamber 6-man tag match only becomes more relevant as time goes on.
Eric Rowan really is the biggest surprise going in WWE right now, written off as another generic big man, he’s really grabbing the hell out of this opportunity. To the point that even with Luke Harpers return he still feels like the bigger deal, the new dynamic between the former Bludgeoners really has worked this first week back together. Big Ginge is a force to be reckoned with!
We’re at that point now where we can all hopefully move on from the random bollocks that was the first month of this storyline. Now building to what appears to look like a possible tag clash of Roman & Bryan vs Rowan & Harper, quite different from the supposed original idea to build to a Reigns/Bryan bout. WWE going with Rowan working unexpectedly well, so hey, why divert from that? Go with it, the arc’s looking good so far.
My only worry is that a reveal of Daniel Bryan being the mastermind of it all may be upon the horizon. Something that what totally fit the made up week to week feel still seeping through this arc, but really the thing’s moved on down such a different direction that it really won’t feel earnt. It’d be a twist that wouldn’t make any sense, or at least negate weeks of television back into Doesn’t Matter Land.
This storyline’s already had enough of that, who remembers the forklift driver enquiry or Rowan 2.0 (or “Faux”-an as I like to call him) anyway?
NXT on USA
September 18th 2019
The Pre AEW Weeks
The appetiser for the Wednesday Night Wars, don’t know if I’ll be able ot handle this amount of great telly.
Well here we are, the new era of NXT on the USA Network. It’s just like normal NXT, but with advert breaks in it! How exciting.
This week’s debut telly show was split in two, with the first hour on USA and the second being an episode of Suits. A tad confusing – with a little sad face for all of us outside the US who aren’t able to see said first hour until midnight the next night – but this split’s only for these first two weeks and the show still felt together and special in spite of it.
After that I won’t be able to see any of it until midnight the next day. Which actually helps me out as it splits up my AEW and NXT viewing to just 2 hours a day instead of the deep end of the pool with 4 hours to wade through. So thanks I guess? Traversing Twitter’ll be a nightmare though!
In that vein, I’ll review the whole show as one regardless, like it’s October 2nd already and we’re drowning in 4 hours of live wrestling. Just to repeat what I’ve said these past few weeks, this section will become more elaborated once we’re talking both NXT & AEW as their shows go head to head. I’ve only lived in the McMahon monopoly, these next few weeks excite me so much!
Firstly, here’s the quick paragraph blasting through all the stuff that wasn’t the top notch matches I want to go more into.
Quick run down: Cameron Grimes and his hat stomped Sean Maluta, or as Mauro Ranallo put it, “In a match that lasted as long as a Tik Tok video, Cameron Grimes has just microwaved Sean Maluta!” I’m just going to holster ‘he just microwaved that fool!’ in my weapon wheel for future squash matches.
Pete Dunne snapped bald Eddy Gordo’s fingers. Xia Li kicked Aliyah, then again and again and one final tornado kick just for good measure. The Imperium stable made the jump from NXT UK with one hell of a statement, WALTER immediately feels like a big deal in his first rivalry clashing with KUSHIDA.
And we may have gotten our first glimpse at the future of the 205 Live world, via Lio Rush returning in a contender’s bout against Oney Lorcan. With NXT moving to 2 hours, I’ve got no problem with this possible shift at all. It’s been a suggestion by fans for a while, shifting the cruiserweights to an audience that’ll actually pop for the amazing wrestling they display week to week. I’m all for it personally… anyway, Lio won. Good on yer, lad.
First Ever NXT Match on National Television
#1 Contender’s Match for the NXT Women’s Championship
Io Shirai vs Bianca Belair vs Mia Yim vs Candice LeRae
Black Heart’s been champion, Rebel Heart too, now it’s time for the Sweet Heart.
We kicked things off in style with our 4 Women #1 Contender’s Match! Io Shirai, Bianca Belair, Mia Yim and Candice LeRae delivered one hell of a treat to open up the show, such a great choice to have this be NXT’s first match on national television. High energy, quick tempo, intensity increasing as they each got closer and closer with those near falls. Such an entertaining match to start this NXT on USA journey.
All four women came out of this looking fantastic: Belair showed off her insane athleticism, LeRae her never say die attitude, Mia Yim the badass who’ll step to and beat the crap out of you, Io Shirai and her downright incredible all round wrestling ability. The perfect showcase for the NXT Women’s Division moving forward, all four felt like stars in the making.
However it was Candice LeRae who walked away with the win, the only one out of tonight’s competitors who’s yet to face Shaner Baszler for the title. It’s great to finally see this woman featured in a more prominent role in the division, her rivalry with Io has really positioned her as one of the brand’s stars of the near future. This match showed us one thing, once Shaner Baszler moves on the NXT Women’s Division in more than capable hands.
The future is bright!
USA Main Event
North American Championship
Velveteen Dream (c) vs Roderick Strong
It wasn’t just the couch, Undisputed Era’s on fire, babay!
Yet another NXT main event that got the crowd jumping on their feet, the perfect way to wrap up your television debut. Two over acts, killing it in a championship match in front of a white hot crowd, hell of a wise decision. To anyone new to the brand, these two guys feel like such big deals and they’re not even main event lads.
Dream entered the cocky as hell champion, Strong somewhat similarly but with backup in the form of his Undisputed Era stablemates. That’s something I really enjoy about Velveteen, yes he’s a beloved face but he hasn’t toned down his over the top ego one bit. The crowd chant that he’s great and he replies back that he damn well is.
However there’s a lot more honour in his game when it comes to the actual in ring competition, it was Roderick Strong pulling all the dirty tricks or having friends run interference. Dream was always up against the odds, refused to stay down, but with all three over Undisputed members around ringside he never stood a chance. Until that point an entertaining as hell back and forth contest, the thing immediately swung into an uphill battle the NA Champion was more and more unlikely to win.
It took two cheapshots from UE members followed by a Strong finisher to keep the man down, the Dream put up one hell of a fight. However this segment did a wonderful job for anyone new to the yellow brand, this really is the Undisputed Era’s world. The dragons hoarding gold, the leaders holding all the keys to the kingdom.
The stage for the USA Network generation of NXT has been set, who will challenge this team? Has anyone got a black enough heart to do what it takes to bring down such a dominant stable?
WWE Network Main Event
Matt Riddle vs Killian Dain
Bro, bro, deartháir, deartháir.
The show pretty much came down to a mighty brawl to end the night. Riddle and Dain’s feud has been pretty much entirely built on those things, both guys going after each other wise such fire and intensity that they simply can’t be held be a measly 20×20 wrestling ring!
A huge schmoz to send us all home in an amped up state, with the two touring Full Sail and returning with a whole locker room of angry big lads clobbering each other. The live crowd loved every second of this, loudly chanting, “NXT! NXT!” throughout pretty much the entire cluster-brawl. With Dain and Riddle eventually fighting off security in the attempts to get at each other, all this was missing was William Regal walking out and delivering a calming, “Alright chaps, this is what we’ll do.”
I’ll be honest, this was not at all what I was expecting. The commentary played it off as the NXT talent being overly aware of the importance of this show and the occasion lead to their emotions blowing over in an instant. I liked the idea of using how big this week’s show was to influence the ending, it really is not something you see very often. Well, maybe in past eras, but nowadays something like this is used extremely rarely. We’re not in the Car Crash TV generation any more.
Quite the literal street fight, I for one was a fan. We’ve been conditioned to match stipulations such as this pretty much all translating to ‘No DQ with a bit of table’, but no, this really was a big ol’ ugly fight. If only… if only there was some form of structure that could hold Riddle, Dain and the brawling locker of wrestlers. Wouldn’t it be useful if there was a match like that? You know, to have some kind of ‘war’ in?
Imp’s RAW Grade – Still a tad long, but The Fiend’s doing stuff so be excited!
Imp’s SD Live Grade – Ah crap FOX is coming, where’s the Brock Party at?
Imp’s NXT Grade – Even when longer and split in two, it’s WWE’s easiest show to blast through.
But now to hear from you, what did you think? What did you make of this week’s RAW/SmackDown and NXT’s debut on USA? Are you happy with the outcome of the King of the Ring Final? Does The Fiend have your attention? I’ve not even mentioned Sasha Banks vs Becky Lynch in Hell In A Cell, does that match have you excited?
Comment below, rate and click an emoji too if you’re that way inclined. I’ll be here to reply and chat this weird wrestling world.
Imp’s most recent columns:
Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – MSG 3:16 (RAW, SD Live & NXT, Sep 12th 2019)
Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – A Little Bit of the Bayley (RAW, SD Live & NXT, Sep 5th 2019)
NJPW G1 Climax Finals Review – Top 5 Matches & MVP feat. Imp & Sam
Imp’s NJPW Adventure – The Story of Hiroshi Tanahashi Part 1: Becoming The Ace