Top Ten

6. Wrestling has been getting me kinda down lately. It seems like I don’t have time to watch the stuff I really want to watch, and instead get stuck watching WWE just because it’s the most convenient. In an effort to bring some positivity to my viewing habits, I’m going to list a Top Ten performers on Raw and Smackdown right now. Even if the rest of the show sucks, these guys will at least make me pay attention.

10. Braun Strowman: I can’t help it. Deep down, don’t all of us love watching big dudes beat the crap out of little dudes? His performance this week on Raw really got him a spot on this list. His little backstage vignette with Jericho made me chuckle, and his utter dismal of Sami Zayn was perfect. There’s issues going forward, but if he can have a good match with Zayn, he might move higher up the list.

9. Heath Slater: He’s got kids! Easily the most entertaining Slater has been in years. Slater has always been an under the radar guy, who can kill 10 minutes and be inoffensively entertaining. The brand split has been kind of him, and being in a featured role on Smackdown has been a treat to watch.

8. The Uso’s: The Uso’s were growing stale as a tag team at around the time the Shield broke up. Think about that for a minute. It’s been what, two years, and the Uso’s have been the same the entire time. A heel turn was the best thing to freshen them up, and American Alpha’s are a great team to oppose them. I hope the Uso’s keep their new attitudes for a while.

7. Sheamus: Sheamus gets a bad rap, but it’s been years since he was actually a bad wrestler. He has improved so much that it just doesn’t get noticed, which is weird to me. He’s a great brawler, and works so much better as a heel bruiser then as a babyface. His series of matches with Cesaro were all very good, and he finally has someone who really compliments him in the ring.

6. Cesaro: Cesaro ranks higher then Sheamus because, well, because Cesaro is a better wrestler. He’s been rejuvenated this year since returning after WrestleMania, and seems to have found a character that works for Raw. He remains the fantastic wrestler he was before his injury. I think the rest of this year has big things in store for Cesaro.

5. The New Day: These guys remain the brightest spot on Raw. In what is usually a three slog, the New Day provide some fun in every segment, no matter the situation. It’s like a fresh breeze when these guys come on. Some day, perhaps soon, this group will lose the tag titles, and Big E is going to be a big star.

4. Becky Lynch: I have no scientific measurements to back this up, but Becky might be getting louder cheers then anyone else right now. While the women on Raw are “making history,” as we are reminded over and over again, Becky is taking the Smackdown brand on her shoulders. She cuts a fiery promo, and her in ring skills are obviously exceptional. As the only Horsewoman on Smackdown, she’s got heavy expectations, and she is living up to them.

3. Chris Jericho: I don’t even have enough words to compliment Jericho. He had a rough start this year, with a feud against AJ Styles that felt like he was struggling to stay relevant. His heel turn helped so much in that. And now he has The List, and is probably the most popular person on Raw. While that’s sad in it’s own way, there’s no denying Jericho is entertaining.

2. The Miz: There is no better heel right now then The Miz. He gets more heat then anyone else on the roster. I’m disappointed he didn’t keep the Intercontinental Title, but whatever he’s doing or whoever he’s fighting, you know he’s going to be the douchebaggiest person around. Having his hot wife around only makes everyone want to hit him more. He’s been brilliant this year.

1. AJ Styles: But no one has had a better year then AJ Styles. Starting with his awesome match against Nakamura at WrestleKingdom, debuting at the Royal Rumble, fighting Jericho at WrestleMania, giving Roman Reigns two of the best matches of his career, beating John Cena at Summerslam, then finally winning the WWE Championship. AJ Styles is WWE Champion. That still feels incredible to say outloud. No one is having better matches at a more consistent pace than AJ Styles. The one knock against AJ has always been that he’s not a great character, but he’s taken to the WWE’s more character driven product like a natural, and is a way better heel then I figured he would be. AJ is easily the best thing going in WWE right now.

 

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Return of the Jobber

One thing the brand split between Raw and Smackdown has reintroduced is the role of the local jobber. One of the more important parts of the weekly television show (no, really!), the return of the jobber has been a welcome addition to the shows, in particular Raw.

The nameless, local jobber has an important, even vital, role on TV. At it’s most basic, it keeps the money-making wrestlers looking strong without making one of your other talents look like a bitch. Up until the mid to late 90’s, television wrestling was almost always a star wrestler against no-name guy. Matches between two main guys were saved. In the 70’s and 80’s, they were saved for big, untelevised shows in arenas like Madison Square Garden. In the 90’s, the marquee matches were saved for Pay Per Views. (more…)

The Cruiserweight Classic

First of all, I meant to write this up, like, a week ago. My bad. Second of all, I’m writing this at 3:00 AM on my phone, so please forgive any incoherence. 

One reason it took me so long to write this is because the CWC was almost too good. Like, what can I even say about it? Gran Metalik, Zack Sabre Jr, Kota Ibushi, and TJ Perkins put on one of the best hours of wrestling you’ll see this year. The entire tournament was phenomenal. It gave guys a platform on the biggest stage in the world, and increased visibility for some of the best wrestlers in the world. Heck, Ibushi got name dropped half a dozen times on Raw, and he didn’t even make the finals. WWE signed a great core group of these cruiserweights, and guys like Rich Swann and Jack Gallagher will get over regardless what happens.

But my excitement is tempered based on how Raw went. The CWC showed us how high quality the Cruiserweight division could be. Monday reminded us that it’s still going to take some work. The inaugeral cruiserweight match was good, don’t get me wrong. And having Brian Kendrick win makes sense using WWE logic. Fans who didn’t watch the CWC may at least be familiar with him. 

But how do you not have your newly crowned champion there? He should have had an exhibition match so people could see what he could do. He should have been at ringside during the four-way. How is it that the only screen time Perkins got was on a WWE.com exclusive? This was such a huge omission that it baffles me how it happened. 

Introducing four new wrestlers (well, three, but, you know, no one’s seen Kendrick in years) is a hard thing to do. Raw should have shown their CWC video packages, and highlights from their tournament matches, all through the night. Not only would this have given the audience some valuable personal information, but would have built up the four way through the whole show.

The match was good, and the four talented wrestlers worked hard to get the crowds attention, but they shouldn’t have had to. They were not set up well to suceed, and it may be a while before WWE understands what makes these guys special. Heck, it took almost a year for the “Diva’s Revolution” to not be pure cringe. I hope WWE gets it right quicker this time. 

CruiserWeight Classic Night 8 & 9

It’s the quarterfinals! And with this post, I’ll be all caught up in time for the live finale. The CWC has been really special, and news broke this week that at least 10 of the guys have been signed for the “Cruiserweight Division” on Raw. My fingers are crossed that they get the respect they deserve on the flagship show.

Gran Metalik (Mexico, lucha libre) vs Akira Tozawa (Japan, technical): One of the great things about this tournament is the incredible clash of styles in some of these matches. They’re even on the mat early on, neither able to get advantage while they exchange holds. They exchange armdrags, then dropkicks, showing how even they are. Metalik finally gets advantage with a dropkick into the ropes, putting Tozawa on the defense. That’s a dangerous way to play against Metalik though, as he goes diving through the ropes, taking Tozawa out. (more…)

CruiserWeight Classic Night 7

This is the final episode of the second round. The second round has been really good so far. Also, I’m only an episode behind after this one, though another airs tonight. I should be caught up before the finals. Woot!

Lince Dorado (Puerto Rico, lucha libre) vs Rich Swann (United States, high-flying): This should be a fast paced, high flying affair. They open up with a low key version of the Ricochet/Ospreay opening from the Best of the Super Juniors tournament earlier this year. Dorado decides to join in the fun and dance a little before diving waaaaay out of the ring. Swann ties up Dorado in, uh, well, a unique submission to say the least, but Dorado escapes. Stiff strikes are exchanged, and the dancing is over as these two start laying into one another. They both go down as they scissor kick each other.  (more…)

CruiserWeight Classic Night 6

The second round continues!

Akira Tozawa (Japan, technical) vs Jack Gallagher (England, technical): This matchup with everything I want out a tournament like this. Even though they are both listed as “technical” wrestlers, the styles of these two couldn’t be more different. Will the speed and power of Tozawa prevail, or the smoothness and creativity of Gallagher? Tozawa has an intensity to him that not many competitors match, while Gallagher is much more laid back and relaxed, another way these guys differ. Tozawa tries to put Gallagher in a couple different holds early, but the Englishman easily escapes each one, reclining casually as he wraps Tozawa’s legs in a grapevine. (more…)

CruiserWeight Classic Night 5

The second round begins! The first round was relatively easy to predict; if I had heard of them, they were probably advancing. This next round is much tougher to pick though, with only a few heavy favorites obviously advancing. The first round had mixed quality. There was nothing bad, but nothing really stood out either. It was definitely worth watching though, if nothing more than for the novelty of all these guys on WWE television. The show opens with a fantastic video package recapping the first round and the 16 men who advanced.

Tajiri (Japan, strong style) vs Gran Metalik (Mexico, lucha libre): This is a pretty big clash of styles, we will see if Tajiri can keep up with the younger and faster Gran Metalik. Tajiri is no stranger to lucha libre, though the style has certainly evolved since Tajiri was fighting the likes of Super Crazy. Tajiri is able to keep up with Metalik early as they run the ropes, showing Tajiri’s lucha skills. They also exchange grounded holds, going from armbars and leg locks, showing Metalik’s proficiency in the more technical style. (more…)

CruiserWeight Classic Night 4

This is the last night of the first round, and they saved a couple of doozy’s for last. I’m still behind on, well, everything, so no more wasting time.

Jason Lee (Hong Kong, China, high-flying) vs Rich Swann (United States, high-flying): Swann has competed a few times on NXT television, and has been impressive. He’s got all the tools, including that all important charisma factor. I know a lot of people were looking forward to him being in this tournament. I do not know Jason Lee, but I hope he’s better than his Chinese compatriot HoHo Lun.

Both these guys are fast. Swann runs and flips around Lee, but Lee gets him with some quick martial arts strikes. Swann is super impressive athletically, hitting a leaping hurricanrana on the top rope, then an AWESOME standing 450 splash for the win. This was too quick to be anything but an impressive showcase for Rich Swann. **1/2 (more…)

CruiserWeight Classic Night 3

Hey, remember that other awesome tournament that happened to be taking place during the last two months? Somehow, I’ve only seen the first two nights, and that is changing immediately. So here we go. Let’s catch up on the CWC.

Zack Sabre Jr (England, technical) vs Tyson Dux (Canada, technical): Zack Sabre Jr is one of the four or five guys that could realistically win this tournament, and is my pick to advance to the final four from his corner of the bracket. He has the same buzz about him that Bryan Danielson used to have. Tyson Dux is… a guy. I know the name, but have never watched him. He’s probably fine. The real star here is ZSJ though.

Mauro drops a World of Sports reference in describing ZSJ, which is pretty cool. Bryan meanwhile sounds like he’s orgasming every time ZSJ counters a hold. While both are labeled technical wrestlers, they are extremely different in the ring. Dux is labeled as master of the basics, and keeps it simple but effective with things like a fireman’s carry. ZSJ though is twirling around limbs, going from hold to hold, attacking almost casually. Dux is getting frustrated, and plants Sabre with an awesome Fisherman’s Buster. It’s hard to describe ZSJ’s offense. He transitions from one hold to another so smoothly. Sabre wins with a unique omoplata armbar. *** (more…)