TV Talking Points – 16th-18th April

This week it was time to shake up the Raw and SmackDown rosters! And since it took place over two nights and really the main highlights from both shows could be exclusively roster moves. So for that reason, I’m shaking up the format of my talking points a little this week too.

Superstar Shake-Up

Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn & The Miz

This was a fantastic segment. From the appearance of KO and Zayn aligning with The Miztourage, to Zayn’s obnoxiousness when telling Angle they were a permanent part of Raw, to Angle cutting them off by telling The Miz he was going to SmackDown. It was all brilliant, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering these three are some of the elite characters in WWE right now. The Miz vs Daniel Bryan rivalry really could make SmackDown must see TV once again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He’s back… but not alone.

Dolph Ziggler needed a refresh. I thought it would come in the form of a proper face turn, but instead it was his return to Raw. Oh, and he has joined forced with Drew McIntyre. I would not have predicted this pairing in a million years, but I’m really intrigued to see what happens next with it. And most of all, I’m just delighted to see McIntyre back on Raw. It’s well deserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raw is Glorious

It’s not so much the move itself that was noteworthy, it was the positioning and presentation of it. Roode, after bring underwhelming on SmackDown for a while, and recently losing the United States Championship, was put on a level playing field with the likes of Braun Strowman, Seth Rollins and Finn Balor. It bodes really well for him to be in that company, because on Raw that’s the best of the best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Striking out on his own

I’m gonna get to his golden exploits on Monday night, but the first move to SmackDown on Tuesday was the new US Champion, Jeff Hardy. He is back on the show where he won three world championships, and being moved away from his brother is as sure a sign as there ever was that WWE are going for the singles push for Jeff. Long may the success continue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SmackDown’s Samoan Submission Specialist

Curve. Ball. The man I expected to be the top heel in the company for months to come, and to be feuding with Roman Reigns over the Universal Championship, got moved to Tuesday nights. And it may be the best thing that ever happened to Samoa Joe. He already knows he has chemistry with the top faces on the blue brand, and he can really take over to become the top guy in a way Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman would never let him on Raw.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Empress of SmackDown

How is it possible, that with all the names SmackDown lost to Raw, that their roster may actually be stronger now than it was last week? It seems like every division that needed strengthened got that big name, and as far as SmackDown’s women go there aren’t many bigger than Asuka. Being on the same show as Charlotte should allow WWE to explore every nuanced consequence of Asuka’s streak ending, and from a star power perspective the balance is much better between Raw and SmackDown’s women’s divisions now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andrade “Cien” Almas & Sanity

I’m grouping these two together for a couple of reasons – neither properly appeared on the show, and both are coming up from NXT and not Raw. But both have huge potential, and both could be star names. Sanity will breathe new life into SmackDown’s tag team division, and Killian Dain has huge breakout singles potential. Almas has proven over the last six months in NXT that he can be an absolute star, and with Zelina Vega by his side the sky is the limit for El Idolo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raw

A new champion

While I kind of expected mid card titles to change shows, I did not expect a title change to be involved in that. Not on Raw at least, I thought they would at least have saved it for the Greatest Royal Rumble or Backlash. But no, in Raw’s opening match Jeff Hardy defeated Jinder Mahal to add the US Title to his trophy cabinet. Just for the record, that cabinet also includes the WWE Championshp, World Heavyweight Championship, Intercontinental Championship, European Championship, Hardcore Championship, Light Heavyweight Championship and multiple tag title reigns with several incarnations of the belts. What a career. What a man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sasha Banks vs Bayley

So this match is going to be overshadowed by the ending, but it felt like these two were a matter of minutes away from reaching the classic level again. Whenever these two get in the ring there’s a magic in the air, and the fans totally bought in. I can’t wait to see more, and that’s all you can ask for from a match.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ember Moon kills Mickie James

That sell. That is all.

 

 

 

 

Joe tells Reigns how it’s going to be

See, this is why I’m disappointed Samoa Joe vs Roman Reigns appears to be a one off. The intensity and legitimacy of Joe’s promos in such a menacing fashion is unrivalled in WWE right now. That’s two weeks in a row he’s produced this kind of promo, and I think long term it could have served up a really memorable match. Oh well, we’ll just have to make to with him facing AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan instead.

 

 

Ten man tag

At the end of a show with a lot of excitement, this was a really fun main event. I mean, with the talent on hand, the time given and the fact that it was a 10-man tag team match, it really couldn’t have been anything else.

 

SmackDown

Mellabration

I’ve been a little surprised in the last two weeks at how good Carmella’s mic work has been, and then I remembered how good she was after winning Money In The Bank. She hasn’t been featured a lot on TV in the interim, but her character work these last two weeks is worthy of the gold she holds. Fingers crossed her in ring work doesn’t spoil the package.

 

NXT

The January Four in action

In the middle of January, WWE announced the signings of “internationally renowned” superstars Ricochet, Hanson & Rowe (War Raiders) and Candice LeRae. Last night on NXT, all four were on the same show for the first time. And I think they all showed why there was so much hype and excitement around them – Ricochet is arguably the best flyer in the world, War Raiders are an elite tag team with an unorthodox moveset, and much like her husband LeRae just has that intangible underdog quality. These four could be the leaders in a new NXT generation.

 

What a week, another whirlwind week. The momentum WWE has right now coming off of Wrestlemania season is huge, and it’s across the board on all three shows. That’s rare, and it’s going to be awesome to go along with this ride!

 

 

Fantasy Booking Series: Superstar Shake-up

So I was in the middle of putting together one of the countless “X superstars who should be shaken up” articles that are currently on the internet, and inspiration struck. I loved putting together those fantasy booking articles last year, so why not use the Shake-up as an opportunity. Instead of just listing some people who I thought should/would swap brands, I could take it into my own hands and actually book the shows.

Before I took one division on Raw and SmackDown and booked months in advance. I see this as the start of more regular posts covering the whole show, maybe covering up to each PPV at a time. Last time I set myself some ground rules, but for this I’m throwing most of them out of the window. If a match has already been announced, I’ll stick to it, but other than that it’s a completely fresh start, and everything – face/heel turns, NXT call-ups, teams forming or splitting up – is fair game. So what would I do with the 2018 Superstar Shake-up? Read on to find out. Read More

Looking back at my early predictions

This is my 200th post on this wrestling blog! It started six years ago, with the first post on April 1, a predictions column for Wrestlemania 28. I’ve progressed through many styles of article, several co-contributors, seen a huge turnover in the WWE roster and the rise of NXT and the WWE Network. And along the way, I’ve made probably hundreds of predictions. So, as a special post for the landmark, I thought I’d take a look back at some of the predictions I made in my first year, and see how right – or very, very wrong – I was. Read More

WWE Brit(ish) Report 1

Welcome to the first edition of a new regular column here on TWF called the WWE Brit(ish) Report! This is going to be a weekly recap of what WWE’s UK & Irish contingent have been up to on and off the screen. It’s been a big week for a couple of WWE superstars from this side of the pond, so let’s get to it! Read More

TV Talking Points – 9th-11th April

So much has happened in WWE over the last week, I couldn’t contain it all in one article. I had to split up the Wrestlemania part of the week from the weekly shows, which this article covers. The post-Mania Raw is always one of the highlights of the year, they’re attempting to make SmackDown the same way and NXT is always solid whether it’s Wrestlemania season or not. So what happened? There were loads of highlights, let’s get to it!

Raw

One Ember sparks the fire

It hasn’t always worked out this way, but if an NXT Champion loses their title right before Wrestlemania, they’re an obvious candidate to be called up. Ember Moon lost the NXT Women’s Championship Saturday night, and debuted on Raw Monday night. I’m really excited to see what Moon can do on the main roster, and her being there should allow for a big name or two to move to SmackDown, because the Raw women’s division is now stacked. With the Eclipse and her presentation, Moon can stand out and be a key player.

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Retro Spotlight: Paige’s Raw Debut

Monday night on Raw there were a lot of surprises, some awesome moments, but there was one moment that stood out for a different reason. Paige took the microphone after Mandy Rose vs Sasha Banks, Rose and Sonya Deville left the ring, and it suddenly took on a different tone. It’s been an open secret since the turn of the year that Paige was not going to be medically cleared by WWE, and this week Paige herself confirmed that, and announced her in ring retirement from WWE.

What has happened here is a tragedy. Paige was a prodigy, signing for WWE as a teenager, becoming a focal point of NXT and becoming champion. It looked like she was going to be the core of WWE’s women’s division for a decade or more. But in 2016 she got hurt and there was a lot of drama also involving Alberto Del Rio, and for all intents and purposes that was the end of her career.

Injury. Controversy. Unfulfilled potential. That could be the lasting memories of Paige. But it shouldn’t be, because as much as WWE wants to call every women of the last 30 years trailblazers, Paige was a huge part of what started the change in perception over these last few years.

And as a tribute of sorts to SmackDown’s new General Manager, I want to go back to that time period. I want to take a look at Paige’s main roster debut, which will possibly go down as the greatest moment of her career. This is my Retro Spotlight for Paige’s Raw debut. Read More

Wrestlemania Talking Points – 6th-8th April

So I wasn’t going to do this, but after the weekend of content WWE put out, and the sheer number of noteworthy things to come out of Raw, I knew that one Talking Points article covering the whole week would be stupidly long. So welcome to Wrestlemania Talking Points, where I do the same thing I usually do for Raw, SmackDown and NXT and apply it to Wrestlemania weekend. That’s the Hall of Fame on Friday, NXT TakeOver: New Orleans and, of course, Wrestlemania 34. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s do it!

Hall of Fame

D-Von can be entertaining

Full disclosure, I still haven’t watched the entre HoF ceremony, because there were a few people I just didn’t have any interest in. But, the Dudley Boyz speech was phenomenal. They managed to toe that line of humour and seriousness perfectly, while putting over other people all the way. The moment with the original TLC teams reuniting on stage was awesome, and of course they put someone through a table.

 

Mark Henry calls for Owen Hart’s induction

I completely understand Martha Hart’s hesitancy to allowed Owen to be associated with WWE. This is just one of those cases where the Hall of Fame will never feel complete without him. He was tag team champions with Mark Henry, so Henry used his speech as an opportunity to publicly ask Martha to let Owen in. It was touching to see how much it clearly meant to Henry, it was a truly emotional moment. It wouldn’t be the last of those over the last few days either.

 

NXT TakeOver: New Orleans

North American Championship Ladder Match

It’s not like anything was massively shocking here, it was just a great match. Everyone got a chance to do their thing and shine, and it really did turn out to be carnage at it’s finest. From Ricochet flying everywhere, to Lars Sullivan manhandling everyone, to Velveteen Dream jumping off the top of  ladder. And when all was said and done, there was only one, Undisputed winner.

 

Queen of Spades… and NXT

It’s been a long time since we had a heel NXT Women’s Champion, but here we are once again. Looking through the list of women to have held that title, it’s an impressive list with a fantastic pedigree that Shayna Baszler has to live up to. She has the character nailed down already, but I’m yet to be convinced by her in the ring. She has some really good talents to work with though, and NXT always does a good job of protecting their talent. I’ll give her time. I know this video is totally unrelated to the match, but I also loved this as Ember’s entrance and there don’t seem to be clips on WWE’s YouTube, so…

 

A Dusty finish again…

We finally saw the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic trophy awarded, and the tag titles were also on the line. Authors of Pain. Undisputed Era. Roderick Strong & Pete Dunne. One thing I really like about NXT is that they save their biggest angles for TakeOvers – Shinsuke Nakamura’s debut, DIY’s implosion, Adam Cole’s debut. And here we got a new moment to add to that list: Roderick Strong turns heel and joins Undisputed Era. And he dd so by attacking his partner, costing them the trophy and the titles. It’s going to be a good fit for Strong going forward, and they’ll likely dominate Wednesday nights together for the rest of 2018.

 

Gargano vs Ciampa

What. A. Match. From the minute Tommaso Ciampa walked down to the ring this felt like it was going to be special, and it was. The storytelling was off the charts, the emotion, the allusions. It can be tough for a match that’s been building for as long as this one has to live up to the hype, but Gargano and Ciampa met expectations and more. For Gargano, back to back classics at TakeOvers cements his spot as one of the elite workers in the company. Really, it says all you need to know that this match was the main event with the card on show.

 

Wrestlemania 34

Grand Slam Rollins

I thought the first four hours of Wrestlemania (including the pre-show) were phenomenal. So it was really tough to decide where to start with these highlights, and I’ve let WWE’s YouTube channel dictate this to an extent. I didn’t think they had the best moments up from the preshow, so even though I thought some moments there were great, I’m going straight to the main card, and Seth Rollins winning the Interconintental Championship to become a Grand Slam Champion. It was a really good match, as expected going in, again with a lot of references to previous encounters. It’s cool that all three members of The Shield are now Grand Slam champs, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Seth does with the title.

 

The streak… is over.

Even with the main event, this was still probably the most surprising result on the card. I really believed in the booking idea that Asuka would win the title, remain unstoppable and build up to a face off with Ronda Rousey next year at Wrestlemania. As it turned out, Charlotte is still the SmackDown Women’s Champion. It’s going to be  very interesting to see where both of these talents go next.

 

Rousey steals the show

At the time of writing, this clip has nearly six million views on YouTube. To put that into perspective, The Undertaker has 2.5 million, and Daniel Bryan has less than a million. That’s the mainstream drawing power that Ronda Rousey has to WWE, the only question was whether she would be any good. And hell yeah she was. This was the best match on the show, and Ronda came across like a bona fide star. She really could be a difference maker for WWE in so many ways if this was anything to go by, because it was a fantastic match by any standards – never mind that it was her debut and Stephanie McMahon was in it.

 

Deadman walking

I really wasn’t convinced about Undertaker wrestling agin, and after Wrestlemania I’m really still not convinced. I’ve seen a lot of talk online that he was looking a lot better than last year, but I didn’t think he was moving that well. But, the saving grace was how they brought him back. The teases were well done, and the way the hat and jacket reappeared I really thought was genius.

 

He’s baaack

Daniel Bryan is back baby! There were issues with this match, nobody can deny that, but above all else it is just plain great to see Daniel Bryan doing his thing again, with no apparent negative consequences. I wrote about this match on Sunday, and I said it wouldn’t feel right if Bryan lost on his return. Well, he didn’t. That was the right call, and it is so exciting to think of all the potential dream matches that lie ahead of him. Welcome back Bryan!

 

See what I mean? Can you imagine if I’d put all that into an article as well as all that happened last night on Raw, and tonight’s SmackDown, and tomorrow’s NXT? I wouldn’t have gotten the article finished this week. Stay tuned for more posts this week, I have a few more planned, and now we can officially say that 2018’s Wrestlemania weekend is in the history books!

Wrestlemania 34 Spotlight: Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn vs Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon

There was only one way I could round off my Spotlights for Wrestlemania 34. And that is with the most hotly anticipated return the wrestling world has seen for many a year. We haven’t seen him in the ring for three years, but he’s back for Wrestlemania. I couldn’t not cover it, it’s the in-ring comeback of Daniel Bryan, as he teams with Shane McMahon to take on Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn!

So there’s been a lot of conflict leading up to this. And I don’t mean conflict between the faces and the heels, that would be obvious. But for months now, Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan have been in a battle of wills over the direction SmackDown should take. And most of the time, those disagreements were over Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, who themselves have been fighting with each other again in the last couple of months. Read More

Wrestlemania 34 Spotlight: Cesaro & Sheamus vs Braun Strowman & ???

Wrestlemania is tomorrow! We’re right around the corner, and there is still one intriguing mystery about the grandest stage of them all. That’s what I’m going to be discussing in this Spotlight, because I’m looking at the Raw Tag Team Championship match between the defending champions Cesaro & Sheamus and Braun Strowman and his secret partner.

Cesaro and Sheamus were put together as an apparently random pairing of two superstars who weren’t doing much. But what a revelation they’ve been. Over 18 months they’ve put on great matches with The New Day, The Hardy Boyz and Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose. The division needed new blood after The New Day’s record setting title reign, and on the Raw side of things the European duo have picked up the mantle and ran with it. Read More

TakeOver: New Orleans Spotlight: North American Championship Ladder Match

This weekend isn’t just about Wrestlemania, tonight we may have the single most stacked NXT TakeOver event in history. Johnny Gargano vs Tommaso Ciampa is my pick to be the best match of the weekend, at the last TakeOver the NXT Championship match got Dave Meltzer’s fabled five stars, we have a triple threat tag team title match that is filled with talent, and we debut a new championship. It is the last on that list that I’m focusing on here, because not only do we have a new title at stake, we also have six men vying for it. And ladders.

It reminds me of the kinds of phrases I used to describe WarGames back in November. Chaos, carnage, destruction; and all in the best possible kind of way. Read More

Wrestlemania 34 Spotlight: Shinsuke Nakamura vs AJ Styles

So it’s about time I got round to writing about the match I’m most looking forward to at Wrestlemania. It’s a match between two of my favourites in or out of WWE (I mean, just look at the image at the very top of this site).

Much like I wrote about the Intercontinental Championship triple threat earlier in the week, it’s a match we’ve seen before. Not in this hemisphere, not in this country. Not on this stage and not with this prize at stake. This time it’s the Royal Rumble winner facing the WWE Champion. But it’s still Shinsuke Nakamura vs AJ Styles. Read More

TV Talking Points – 2nd-4th April

It was the go-home week for Wrestlemania, and with most of Mania already set it felt like a fairly standard Raw and SmackDown. It could be argued that they should have been blow-away shows as a final push to sell you Wrestlemania, but in the Network era that doesn’t matter anymore. So if you missed the shows, what happened?

Raw

The Authority stands tall

Since Ronda Rousey debuted, she hasn’t really shown any weakness. That was until Monday, where Triple H and Stephanie McMahon finally got the upper hand. I imagine Ronda will be getting the win on Sunday, and you can’t expect The Authority to never get the last laugh. And it was a nice example of turnaround being fair play, as Ronda ended up getting put through a table. Just like she did to Triple H at Elimination Chamber.

 

Brains Strowman

One of the few remaining mysteries going into Wrestlemania is who Sheamus & Cesaro will be defending the Raw Tag Team Championships against. We know Braun Strowman will be in the match, as he won a battle royal a few weeks back to earn the shot. But ever since, he’s refused to reveal who his partner will be. There has been a lot of speculation as to who it will be, ranging from Rey Mysterio to Bray Wyatt to Dean Ambrose to Drew McIntyre. But I think it’s safe to say one person it won’t be is “Brains Strowman”.

 

Tensions bubbling over

So I wanted to call attention to one rivalry that isn’t going to be a featured part of Sunday, but looks like it will be in the aftermath of Wrestlemania. There have been teases of revisiting NXT’s legendary Sasha Banks vs Bayley rivalry for over a year now, but things have really picked up in the last month. It seems obvious that one of them will be turning heel. Who will it be? I’d have to think we’ll find out in the next week. That in sunless a Superstar Shake-up messes thing long running story up again.

 

SmackDown

Hug it out

It’s amazing how quickly things can turn around in just a few weeks. Daniel Bryan’s story really is remarkable, and his popularity hasn’t waned a bit. Even the allusions to his previous gimmicks and storylines are as over as they ever were at the time, and I’m sure Dr Shelby would be proud to see Bryan still utilising the practice of hugging things out. I think this was a necessary segment, since there was always going to be the question of how these two would coexist after disagreeing with each other for so long. But also, if there is going to be a heel turn, if will make it all the more of a betrayal after this. It was important for their solidarity this Sunday, but it was also important for story options going forward.

 

NXT

A Classicly Dusty finish

I loved that Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne were entered into the Dusty Classic. The original Dusty Classic were full or mix and match duos (let’s not forget the inaugural winners were Finn Balor and Samoa Joe) where part of the story was whether they would implode by the end of each match. And this year things were taken one step further, as the whole tournament ended with a controversial finish, as the Undisputed Era caused a double disqualification. This led to not just the tag titles being on the line come Saturday night at TakeOver, but also the Dusty Rhodes trophy. Will the Undisputed Era win the Dusty Classic by winning a single match?

 

Six man face off

The advertised main event of this week’s NXT was Killian Dain vs Lars Sullivan, two of the contestants in the ladder match to crown the first ever NXT North American Champion on Saturday. But for the second time on the show, we didn’t get a clean finish. Actually, we didn’t get any finish. The rest of the field came out to interrupt the match, and while no punches were thrown, no words were said, NXT did go off the air with the first in-ring appearance of The One and Only… Ricochet.

 

I fully expect a bumper week next time out as TakeOver and Wrestlemania will be included, and it’s always an extremely newsworthy edition of Raw and SmackDown after Wrestlemania. I’m also doing Spotlights on Mania matches every day this week, and I’ll be posting a TakeOver: New Orleans Spotlight too, so keep visiting the sight to keep up to date with all my latest content!