Cubed Circle Newsletter Issue #73: ROH Anniversary, New Japan 41st Anniversary, Old-School RAW, News + More!

For a full-colour PDF with pictures click here 

 

Cubed Circle Newsletter

 

This week we have a moderately busy issue for you covering bits and pieces of the news, the ROH 11th and New Japan 41st Anniversary shows, TNA’s Lockdown go-home show, old-school RAW, the great rating that it did, Ben Carass covers SmackDown and NXT as always and more!

 

I would also like to remind the readers that it is almost time for the next survey! So if you have any suggestions you can always email them to ryan@cubedcirclewrestling.com or admin@cubedcirclewrestling.com. The surveys are exceptionally important in determining what it is that we must focus on most in the newsletter, and what the readers want. Do you have a strange preference in regard to spacing? Hate the logo? Do you just plain hate these intros? You are free to have your voice heard. If not you can always simply wait for the survey. With that I hope you have a great week and enjoy the newsletter.

 

-Ryan Clingman, Cubed Circle Wrestling Newsletter Editor

 

News

 

While there are a couple of big things to mention this week the news has been rather sparse compared to recent weeks, as there has been no major news in the form of companies being purchased, contracts being signed or the like. However, there are a few things to talk about, so instead of running them all down with individual headings, I thought that it would be slightly more productive to loop them all under the “News” header instead of individual banners, simply because the section won’t be that long this week – so basically Bits and Pieces on the first page.

 

The biggest news story coming out of this week was unfortunately a very sad one, as Bill “Paul Bearer/Percy Pringle” Moody past away on March the 5th due to causes that aren’t all that specific at this time. Moody (58) had been a part of the business for years, and most famously played the roles of Paul Bearer, the manager of the Undertaker/Kane in the WWF, and Percy Pringle in the USWA and World Class. I highly recommend the obituary that was written for Moody both in the Wrestling Observer and Figure Four Weekly newsletter together with an interview conducted with Moody in December of last year by the Torch. The only thing that I really have to add to the situation is that Moody, and the Paul Bearer character provided me, and many other people with memories that will last a very long time. I don’t think that many could have pulled the character off better than him.

 

Believe it or not Rey Mysterio suffered another knee injury, this time on the so called “good knee”, although I am sure neither one of his knees could be considered “good” by the regular standards of human anatomy. Apparently he will not need surgery, and will simply need to wear a boot. If this was a few months ago I would have commented on what this means for the remainder of his career and relationship with the WWE, but they are apparently on quite good terms as of right now, so we will see what comes of this. Mysterio originally thought that he had torn his ACL again, but following a visit to a doctor in Alabama it was established that he would need the boot.

 

It looks like New Japan’s WrestleMania Sunday show entitled ‘Invasion Attack’ will feature an invasion of sort from some active NWA wrestlers. This comes after a video was released by New Japan featuring current NWA president Bruce Tharpe saying that he would be sending wrestlers to New Japan. The whole thing was rather cheesy, but seemed to work in a weird way. Tharpe said that they would beat the New Japan talented like Thesz beat Rikidozan in Japan, something that in reality didn’t happen. From what has been announced so far, and what I have read it looks like the tour will at least feature the NWA tag team champions, but I am not sure what the scale of the angle will be as of right now.

 

ROH have announced the mainevent for their May 4th show, Border Wars, this week following their Anniversary pay-per-view. Kevin Steen is going to defend his ROH World Title against Adam Cole, which is probably a good move, but they went about it in quite a strange way, as Adam Cole has just lost the TV title and should presumably be in a program with Matt Hardy still, although they could easily blow that off by the 4th. The original idea was that they were going to have Michael Elgin challenge Steen on that show since it would make sense with them both being Canadian and all.

 

As if the WrestleMania weekend isn’t crammed enough, not only are TNA airing the premiere of one of their taped pay-per-views, but Hulk Hogan of all people is also promoting a show that weekend. It really is quite an intimidating weekend, as the laws of the “never too much good wrestling” motto will be put to the test. We are probably going to be running two double issues on the Sunday of Mania weekend and the Sunday following to try get everything done; however, if one thing is for sure you should probably put your life on hold on the weekend of the 7th.

 

TNA are running their Lockdown show this Sunday headlined by Bully Ray challenging Jeff Hardy for the TNA world title. Other matches on the card include a TNA tag team title three-way with Austin Aries and Bobby Roode defending against Daniels & Kazarian and Chavo and Hernandez. Gail Kim also challenges Velvet Sky, and there is a Lethal Lockdown match with Sting, Samoa Joe, Magnus, James Storm and Eric Young going up against the Aces & Eights. Kurt Angle goes up against Wes Briscoe in a cage, and Robbie E goes head to head with Robbie T. Kenny King also defends his TNA title against York and Ion apparently, but no mention of that was made on TV. They are running the show at the colossal Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, which they are probably going to curtain off to a very large extent. The show is important, because it really is the first real pay-per-view under TNA’s new pay-per-view model, although to be honest they really didn’t do as good of a job as they should have setting up this show, as before this Thursday’s Impact I didn’t even realize that Lockdown was this weekend, and I take notes. As an overall show it show it should be fun though, with the mainevent probably being the best match on the show. I can’t really see anything else other than the Lethal Lockdown being at the great level, but the show will probably make for a fun Sunday.

 

Have you ever wondered what ever happened to Andy Levine? Who is Andy Levine you ask? Come on, you know the guy who won Tough Enough. Don’t remember? Come on you know…the…tall one – never mind. Anyway it looks like he has given up on wrestling entirely and is trying out for football, which tells you two things. Number one is that they probably should have had Luke Robinson win the competition, and the second is that Aries really should have made the cut at least. Tough Enough – ha!

 

El Generico had his first official NXT match this week, unmasked and using his real name, Rami Sebei. It was a gym show, so it wasn’t televised or anything, and that would also lead me to believe that this was just a temporary thig to see how he works without the mask. Plus, the fact of the matter is that the WWE doesn’t like people to use their own names, unless of course they are so confident that he would go back to using the El Generico gimmick if he left the company, but even then I can’t imagine them letting him use his real name once he makes it up to TV. I wouldn’t be surprised if they threw another mask onto him repackaging him in a similar masked role.

 

TNA said goodbye to the Impact Zone this week, the building in Orlando that has really been their home base for the majority of their existence now. This week’s Impact marked the final date on their contract with the building and after this they are going to be on the road the entire way through. To commemorate their time in the Impact Zone they released a video remembering all of the big moments of TNA’s history that took place in the building.

 

Reports

 

ROH 11th Anniversary Show March 2nd 2013

Frontier Field House, Chicago Ridge, Illinois

 

Overall Thoughts:

 

This was the best show that ROH has put on in some time. It wasn’t that there was a match of the year candidate on the show or anything, but it did have a ton of good matches and there was almost nothing bad on it. The Forever Hooligans match was probably the best thing on the show, but the Tag Team title match was also very good. The one problem that I had with the show, and this is a problem that extends to all of their shows since they removed Nigel from the commentary role, is simply that the comedy doesn’t click for me. Nigel was able to get the product over in such a unique and serious way, and while Kevin Kelly is very good and was obviously the best announcer of the previous team – the announce team doesn’t carry the same weight now that Nigel is gone.

 

1. Six Man Mayhem Match

Tadarius Thomas vs. QT Marshall w/ RD Evans vs. Adam Page vs. Mike Sydal vs. ACH

 

RD Evans was on commentary, and was of course quite entertaining. The rules of a six-man mayhem match are basically similar to a three-way tag match, in that opponents can tag each other in and out with two men in the ring, and four on the apron. Also, it is Lucha Libre rules, so rolls to the outside count as tags, which is basically where the ‘mayhem’ portion of the match comes in. The match was really what you would expect, it was very fun, but was basically one rolling spot fest, with big spot after big spot with no time to soak anything in. At one point Evans was superplexed from the top rope onto everyone on the outside The finish came when ACH landed a cradle spike DDT on Sydal for the win. The fans were super into it, and I had nothing against it, but they really did go too fast for my liking. It all comes down to what you’re into at the end of the day.

***

 

2. S.C.U.M. (Steve Corino & Jimmy Jacobs) vs. Caprice Coleman & Cedric Alexander

 

Both teams went straight after each other from the entrance of Coleman and Alexander. Coleman and Alexander landed some big dives, including a topé con giro from Alexander, and a tigerkick through the turnbuckle from Coleman. Corino and Jacobs worked over Coleman throughout the early portion of the match. The tag was made to Alexander and he ran wild with a flurry of big moves, but was sent into the turnbuckle. Coleman ran in and landed the triple northern lights suplexes with a double-team suplex on the third one with Alexander. Alexander and Coleman landed a legdrop and splash combination on Jacobs, they went for their double team, but Corino landed a cheapshot with the change and they landed the assisted spike piledriver for the win. This was a fun match, and was set at the right pace for its spot on the card.

** 3/4

 

3. No Holds Barred Match

BJ Whitmer vs. Charlie Haas

 

Haas awaited Whitmer’s entrance at the top of the entrance ramp, but Whitmer was able to land a shot with a can of beer for the early advantage. Whitmer placed a trashcan over the head of Haas and landed a running dropkick followed by a shot with a ladder. He then landed a chair assisted groin shot with the ladder. Haas was in control of Whitmer following a distraction where Whitmer went to set up a table. A rookie that Haas injured in story line then came out for a distraction, but once he had left after giving Haas the middle finger Whitmer was releas German suplexed from the inside of the ring through the table. Haas then went nuts landing shots with a chair with Whitmer underneath a ladder. One of the biggest spots of the match came when Haas release German suplexed Whitmer through the table, playing off of the big spot that went wrong in the previous match. Haas set up a ladder bridge, but Whitmer landed an exploder through the bridge for two. Whitmer then landed knee strike after knee strike for the win, which I thought was a creative finish, but didn’t really work in the context of a streetfight.

*** 1/2

 

4. Forever Hooligans (Rocky Romero & Alex Kozlov) vs. The American Wolves (Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards)

 

Kevin Kelly did a great job of explaining the legitimate story of Davey Richard in New Japan. An interesting thing to note was that the Forever Hooligans came out to a newly recorded theme, which they haven’t been using at all in New Japan, in fact they are one of the few teams to still be using copyrighted music in New Japan; a Rick Ross song. Now, you would think that the Forever Hooligans will be working more dates, because if they are not going to use that theme in New Japan then what would be the point of having the song recorded. A funny thing was that where the Japanese are so respectful that they stand and clap for the Russian National Anthem, this Chicago crowd was having none of it, which was to be expected. Richards and Romero did a lot of comedy early on. The Wolves landed their dual topés. Romero landed his flurry of lariats in the corner, but Edwards cut him off with a lariat and made the tag to Richards. They did some fast exchanges, with the customary kazatska kicks from Kozlov. The announce team tried really hard to tell the story that Forever Hooligans are the same as the Wolves, but from watching New Japan and this match it is very clear that they are not. The Wolves landed a tombstone superkick combination on Kozlov, but he still kicked out. Romero foiled the plans for a double team, which led to a chant for Mother Russia. Kozlov landed a frankensteiner off of the shoulders of Kozlov from the top rope, but Richards kicked out. Romero was booted off the apron and the Wolves landed a powerbomb backstabber combination for the win. This was a great tag match and it felt as if the Forever Hooligans really won the crowd over with chants of “please comeback”. Romero and Kozlov debated whether to shake hands with the Wolves or not, but decided to do so. Romero ran by Kelly after the match screaming “forever!”, which is just great out of the context of Japan. I really liked the story that they tolled of Richards abandoning Romero, and thought that it was great in the context of what is pretty much a once off match.

****

 

5. 2/3 Falls Match

Roderick Strong vs. Michael Elgin

 

They had Elgin garner a very quick first fall only around two minutes in with Elgin landing a backfist, bucklebomb and sit-out powerbomb for the first fall. They did a lot of work on the outside with each man landing shots. Both men were out there for around eight to ten minutes or so over dualling chants from the fans. Strong landed his turnbuckle backbreaker and double knee backbreaker for the second fall. Strong shot straight out of the gate with three or four big knees in the corner followed by a backbreaker, but still Elgin kicked out. Elgin landed a wacky looking corkscrew senton, but landing with only his upper shoulders on Strong. Elgin pulled Strong up with a deadlift superplex, but Strong countered into a powerbomb for two. Elgin landed a powerbomb into a crossface for the third fall and the win seconds later.

*** 3/4

 

Martini cut a innuendo ladened promo before Taven’s match. Out came Hardy and he said that he would be the new TV champion and that he was the icon.

 

6. ROH Television Championship Match

Adam Cole vs. Matt Taven w/ Truth Martini

 

Cole was in control of Taven until he went running after Martini at ringside and was laid out with a spinkick. Martini landed some shots on Cole behind the referee’s back, which put Taven steadily in control. Hardy claimed that Nigel was being “racist towards Mattitude” on commentary. Cole spiked Taven with a sunset powerbomb and then landed a shining wizard for two. Cole then landed a DDT onto the apron on Taven. Cole missed a splash and Martini landed a shot with the book of Truth to the back, which allowed Taven to land a modified cradle DDT for the win. This was a truly unexpected finish, as I don’t think anyone would have thought that Taven would have been given the title here. It was sold like a huge deal by everyone involved, which makes the title seem like a far bigger deal than when someone in the WWE beats a midcard champion. It looks like ROH are really pushing Taven hard, which could either be a good or bad thing depending on how fans take to him. He seems to be a decent talent, but nothing spectacular at this point, although this could be something to elevate him. The big story was that Hardy was absolutely devastated that he would not get his title shot against Cole that was scheduled for the next night, as he was set to face Cole for the title, but it was changed to a non-title match.

*** 1/4

 

7. ROH Tag Team Championship Match

Jay Briscoe & Mark Briscoe vs. reDragon (Bobby Fish & Kyle ‘O Reilly)

 

Fish and ‘O Reilly gained the advantage when Fish kicked the leg out from under Mark Briscoe on the apron. Jay and ‘O Reilly exchanged strikes, but ‘O Reilly overwhelmed Jay. Jay was finally able to make the tag to Mark who ran wild with red neck kung-fu. Mark landed a fisherman’s suplex, which was funny considering that Mark was calling himself a fisherman in promos leading up to the show. Mark followed it with a dragon suplex, which also seemed a little to coincidental. ‘O Reilly and Fish landed their variant of the total elimination on Jay, but he he kicked out. Fish was sent to the floor by Jay and they landed a doomsday off of the apron onto the floor with Kyle seemingly doing more than a complete rotation. They went for the doomsday in the ring on Fish, but ‘O Reilly ran in and he and Mark traded headbutts on the apron with Mark being busted open hard way. Mark then took a release northern lights suplex off of the apron. It hasn’t really been mentioned at all in the newsletter, but ROH are no longer permitting blood in their matches, which has been a rule for a while. Nigel probably played a strong role in it. Fish and ‘O Reilly landed the doomsday, but Jay kicked out. However, Fish and ‘O Reilly then landed a highkick brainbuster combo for the win. This was again a very surprising finish, but it will be interesting to see how ‘O Reilly and Fish fit in the role, as they are really working well together. As for the match, it was a really well worked and well thought out match, and although there were some crazy spots here, they didn’t go overboard which is often the case in ‘O Reilly matches.

****

 

8. ROH World Heavyweight Championship Match

Kevin Steen vs. Jay Lethal

 

They obviously started off with stiff forearms and they then dropped down to the outside where they brawled some more. Lethal shot out with two topés, but on the third was caught and powerbombed on the apron. Steen did some crowd interaction while working over Lethal. You couldn’t really hear what he was saying due to the quality of the audio and or micing, but he said something to the crowd that really made them pop. Lethal was able to land a backcracker, but Steen kicked out. Steen missed the cannonball in the corner, which led to Lethal landing a very big neckbreaker for two. Steen went for the f-clique, but the ref took a bump, Lethal landed the Lethal Injection and got the visual pin. However, Jacobs and Corino came out and landed the spike piledriver, but Lethal kicked out. Jacobs landed an elbow on the referee, but Nigel pulled the chair out of his hands and removed his jacket chasing Corino back to the locker room. Jacobs was caught with an enzuigiri from Lethal and they went back to the strikes – the point that they had started the match at. Lethal landed a dragon suplex, Steen no sold, but Lethal landed a second for two. Lethal landed a pele, Steen the sitout powerbomb and Lethal unloaded with superkick after superkick and then landed the Lethal combination. Lethal landed the elbow drop, Steen kicked out, but Lethal immediately went to the Koji clutch. Lethal went for a dragon suplex on the apron, but Steen countered it into an f-clique through the table. Jacobs had a hold of Lethal’s leg before he got in the ring,, Lethal broke free, Steen landed the package piedriver, but Lethal still kicked out. Jacobs got up on the apron and Steen pushed him off and then landed a lariat. Lethal went to the top, Steen followed suit, Lethal pushed him off, but Steen climbed back up and pinned him with El Generico’s brainbuster in a great finish. Although I had some gripes with the match, mainly all of the interference, simply because I have seen more than enough of that this month. However, it was an important part of the angle and is obviously going to lead to a Steen “face” turn, if that isn’t what he is in the eyes of the fans already. I thought that the finish with Steen landing the brainbuster was very apropos, and made a lot of sense in the context of the time period. All in all it was a very good Steen mainevent.

****

 

After the match Rhino ran in with a gore on Lethal and Jacobs laid out the referee. The Briscoes ran out, but they were eventually laid out too. Coleman and Alexander attempted, but Jimmy Rave returned in a S.C.U.M. shirt on. BJ Whitmer and Titus were out next, but Titus revealed a S.C.U.M. Shirt laying out Whitmer. Elgin made his way out as well, but Cliff Compton (Domino of WWE fame) debuted to a pop and threw powder into Elgin’s face. The Briscoes attempted to fight back and Steen wouldn’t partake in any of it as there was a further melee. This was obviously part of the slow burn turn, because they even had the faces attack Steen, but Steen didn’t do a thing. Cole came down too, but Hardy came out and attacked him after having some trouble revealing his S.C.U.M. Shirt. Corino cut a promo saying that they were witnessing the destruction of ROH and the evolution of S.C.U.M. And said that ROH was also involved in the destruction of many of the ROH roster. They were the ones that were going to murder ROH, which was the cue for all of them to start tearing up the ROH banner. Corino closed by saying that it was the night that honor died. This angle was way too busy for my liking and I simply cannot see it working or helping the company with this mixture of guys that they have now – it jut feels way too thrown together. It doesn’t feel like they are bonded by a common purpose, and the whole “we are here to commit evil mwahaha” thing is really appropriate for a 1980s cartoon and not the ROH product.

 

New Japan Pro Wrestling 41st Anniversary Show March 3rd 2013

Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan

 

Overall Show Thoughts:

 

While this certainly wasn’t a show on the level of some of the iPPVs over the past few months, it was still a very fun show with a lot of enjoyable matches on the undercard and two great matches coupled with one good one at the end of the show. The Tanahashi/Devitt match was very good as expected, although it didn’t get as much time as I wanted it too, still they put on a match that would have been a good fit for an internet-pay-per-view show. The CHAOS/Suzuki-gun match was also very good, and was probably the match that I enjoyed most out of anything on the show. The Nakamura/Archer match is also worth checking out, but wasn’t anything blow away, although it was several times better than you would have expected. All in all this was a fun show, and while the only matches that you should go out of your way to see are the last three, you wouldn’t really be doing yourself a disservice by watching the entire show.

 

1. Hiromu Takahashi & Takaaki Watanabe vs. Sho Tanaka & Yohei Komatsu

 

I know that this has been said before, but in this match it was even more apparent, the fact was that everyone in this match looked exactly the same in-terms of attire. While Takahashi has just turned 24, I think that he does have the opportunity to become a really good performer as he and Watanabe (26) certainly have something. Both teams went back and forth for the majority of the time that they had, and there were some really simple, yet fun spots like when Komatsu locked in a Boston crab on Takahashi. Takahashi locked in a Boston crab of his own shortly after, Komatsu attempted to power out, but Takahashi transitioned into a unique crossface/facelock type submission for the win in 08:43. While it wasn’t close to the best match on the show, this match definitely gets a thumbs up as a part of the development of all four men.

***

 

2. Yuji Nagata, Wataru Inoue, Super Strong Machine (Junji Hirata) & Captain New Japan vs. Hirooki Goto, Karl Anderson, Ryusuke Taguchi & Tama Tonga

 

Strong Machine did a ton of nostalgia spots at the start of the match, but was isolated by Goto and Anderson. Machine attempted to break away from Tonga with a headbutt, but of course Tonga is doing the hard head gimmick, so he just smiled and shook it off. Anderson mocked Nagata’s taunt, which caused him to miss a back senton and the tag was made to Nagata who ran wild on Goto. They transitioned to an elbow exchange, which Goto got the better of landing a big lariat. Anderson was tagged in, and he and Nagata traded counters back and forth until Nagata landed an exploder and made the tag to New Japan who was calling for it on the apron. Everyone on Team Nagata landed their big moves, and New Japan landed his headbutt on Anderson, and then fought off the whole of Team Anderson with single shots, which in the most ideal situation shouldn’t have happened. Taguchi shot in to break the Caribbean Death Lock, Goto landed his lariat and Anderson the gunstun for the win in 09:23. This match was obviously limited to some extent due to New Japan and Strong Machine, but for what it was, which was an opening level multi-man match it was perfectly fine.

** 3/4

 

3. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Title Match

Time Splitters ( KUSHIDA & Alex Shelley) vs. Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask IV

 

Liger and Shelley started out with some matwork before the tags were made to Tiger Mask and KUSHIDA respectively. Liger worked over Shelley and locked in a figure four, but KUSHIDA was tagged in and ran wild. Liger grabbed a Thesz press, but missed a splash, which allowed the tags to be made to Tiger Mask and KUSHIDA. Tiger Mask landed a release double arm duplex from the top rope, but KUSHIDA was in to break it up. Liger was then taken to the floor and Shelley and KUSHIDA were free to land the sliced bread doomsday, but Liger was in to break it on. Shelley grabbed the Shelley clutch on Tiger mask a few seconds later for the win in 11:22. This was a different kind of match compared to the majority of matches that the Time Splitters have had throughout their run, and while it certainly wasn’t a great match by any means, Liger and Tiger Mask are still serviceable enough to put on a fun tag title match.

** 3/4

 

4. Togi Makabe, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Manabu Nakanishi vs. Toru Yano, Takaashi Iizuka, Yujiro Takahashi & YOSHI-HASHI

 

Read the names in the match title carefully, and answer me this, have you read a new New Japan report before, or better yet watched a show from start to finish? If you answered yes to one or both of those questions then you most probably know what happened at the start, and even all the way through this match – congratulations. If you answered no to both of those questions, then the story is simple, the match started off with Iizuka and Yano blindsiding the face team and using a myriad of underhanded tactics. A mediocre match followed before Yujiro fouled Makabe with a chain to end the match. The finish wasn’t necessarily surprising, but I always find DQ finishes involving Iizuka and Yano incredibly stupid since 90% of their offense would technically be considered illegal. Of course this means that the Yano/Makabe match must continue.

* 3/4

 

5. Minoru Suzuki, TAKA Michinoku, Davey Boy Smith, Jr. & Kengo Mashimo w/Taichi vs. Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Gedo & Jado

 

There was a large melee before the match, which settled down into Mashimo and Jado. The crowd was unbelievably into Jado. Suzuki-gun worked over Gedo, while Ishii desperately tried to get in. As has been mentioned before, Suzuki-gun working over Gedo in these matches works so well, and is such a great set up for the hot tag. Gedo finally made the tag to Okada who ran wild and submitted Michinoku with a camel clutch. Smith eliminated Jado with a sharpshooter soon after. He then proceeded to eliminate Gedo a minute later, which led to Ishii and him going at it, with Smith countering a brain buster into a power slam. Ishii finally landed a brain buster and sent Smith over the top rope for the elimination keeping him strong. The crowd was really into Ishii at this point. Mashimo and Ishii traded kicks and elbows. Mashimo repeatedly attempted to send Ishii over, but he resisted and eventually hoisted Mashimo onto the apron for a battle with both men colliding with strikes and falling to the floor for the double elimination. This left Okada and Suzuki in the ring to very loud Okada chants. They had a fiery elbow exchange with Okada landed his colossal drop kick. Suzuki grabbed a sleeper, Okada began to fade, but he countered the Gotch piledriver into the belly to back over the shoulder over the knee back breaker, followed by the elbow drop. He signaled for the rainmaker, but Okada was pushed off and Taichi grabbed Okada’s leg. Suzuki was sent to the apron, but he grabbed Okada’s leg locking in a knee bar and let Okada fall to the floor in 19:50 to conclude an excellent outing. I am super impressed with the way that they are building to he next Okada/Suzuki match, as when he finally wins it will be a huge deal.

****

 

6.IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Lance Archer

 

The first big spot of the match came when Archer used a big boot to knock Nakamura to the floor. the five or six minutes that followed that were basically made up of Archer working over Nakamura, and then Nakamura springing up and landing two guillotine kneedrops onto the neck of Archer. Nakamura missed a knee in the corner, but managed to reposition Archer landed a knee straight to the gut. Nakamura then followed it with an enzuigiri and kick to the head. Arch went for an F5, but hit the referee, which led to him gaining the visual pin with no one in the ring. Smith then ran into the ring and landed the killer bomb with Archer giving the referee the middle finger. Smith threw the referee back, into the ring, but he was really selling the injury hard and did not awake. This allowed Nakamura to land a Bome Ye, but Archer grabbed a big boot and went up top for the moonsault. Nakamura kicked out, and landed a Bome Ye for the win in 19:50. This match was far better than you would have expected, although there was the ref bump at the end that I could have done without, New Japan use it so sparingly that it wasn’t as much of an issue as it would have been in most instances. The near falls really helped and Nakamura really showcased his working ability once again, along with Archer Who is better than many people give him credit for.

*** 1/2

 

7. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Prince Devitt

 

The crowd was dual chanting, but would occasionally break into strong chants of either “Tanahashi” or “Devitt”. As is often the case with Tanahashi singles matches against baby faces he worked many parts of the match as a subtle heel, doing things like mimicking Devitt’s taunts and the like, which played into the match later on. Devitt manged to hit his topé con giro and actually landed a chair shot on the floor and shoved the referee away. I guess this was playing off of when he swore at Tanahashi the other day at a house show. Surprisingly this led to chants for Devitt. Devitt then followed it by playing the air guitar off of Tanahashi’s ribs, similar to what Tanahashi did to Suzuki a few months back. Devitt landed big move after big move until Tanahashi caught him with a dragon screw in the ropes and a high fly flow on the floor followed by another dragon screw. The fans dual changed again as Devitt fought off a cloverleaf attempt and they went to an elbow exchange. Devitt landed a double foot stomp to the back and followed it with Bloody Sunday, but Tanahashi kicked out again. Tanahashi landed dragon screws on both knees and went back to the cloverleaf, but Devitt made it to the ropes. Devitt then got the knees up off of a high fly flow for two and went to the top rope landing a double footstool for two. Devitt missed a spin kick and Tanahashi went back after the knee with a drop kick. Devitt landed a high kick after Tanahashi skinned the cat, and Tanahashi landed a straight jacket German for two. Tanahashi grabbed a sling blade, but Devitt then grabbed a roll up for two. Tanahashi landed another and landed the high fly flow for the win in 17:43. While it could have gone longer this was a fantastic outing from both men, telling a great story as was expected. Tanahashi’s leg work and Devitt’s selling were both phenomenal, and it was really a tight match when it came to psychology. After he match Tanahashi tried to help Devitt up, but he was pushed away, and Devitt walked off. Again, the crowd still chanted for Devitt just showing how much they love the guy. I am hoping that this leads to something down the line with Devitt moving up to heavyweight. After the match Tanahashi did encore after encore with his air guitar.

**** 1/4

 

WWE Monday Night RAW March 4th 2013

First Niagara Center, Buffalo, New York

 

Overall Thoughts:

 

Monday’s edition of RAW was somewhat of a strange show, on the one hand you had a few fun segments and the show was mostly enjoyable, plus they got some key plot points down on the road to WrestleMania. But, on the other hand, some of the ways that they got to those points were just so weird. Take the Undertaker angle for instance, the Punk promo was fine and all, but was it really necessary to setup a four way for later on in the show? Of course note, and if anything they weakened the initial spark of the angle tonight by doing something so off the wall and unneeded. As for everything else on he show, I liked the John Cena/Rock segment and thought it laid some nice groundwork for future promos, and while the Triple H promo wasn’t really hard hitting or impactful, it served its purpose well. Most of the other stuff on the show was of little to no consequence, and it feels like the midcard angles are being heavily neglected for this year’s Mania, which was expected going in.

 

Instead of the newer video package that they use to open up WWE events they used a very eighties ‘Then. Now. Forever’ graphic with Mean Gene as narrator. Of course it was old-school RAW so all of the graphics, plus the set and ring had been set back a few decades. Instead of setting it up with an angle they had Undertaker just waltz out to open the show before anything else, which I found quite bizarre considering how much speculation has gone into his appearance at this year’s Mania. During his entrance they cut to a Mean Gene Narrated Old-school RAW package. Even more bizarre was the fact that after the package they cut to Lawler (who was in his old getup) and Cole who said that Undertaker would appear later on. Out came Punk with no Taker to be seen. He said that the reason he wasn’t in the mainevent of Mania or the champion was because of the fans. He wouldn’t have a purpose to be at Mania, but he had just found his purpose – he would end the streak, basically to spite the fans.

 

Just then Orton’s music hit and he came out asking the fans who they would rather see face the Undertaker at WrestleMania. The crowd popped for Orton’s name. Just then Big Show’s music hit, which means that the Undertaker’s streak had just become the World title in an opening segment of SmackDown. Big Show pleaded his case, and out came Sheamus. He said that anything was possible with the luck of the Irish on your side, and finally out came Vickie Guerrero. She made a fatal fourway match for later on with the winner facing the Undertaker, which was honestly a weak way to set the match up.

 

Antonio Cesaro made his way out for his match with Ryback. They aired a wacky inset promo with Antonio Cesaro, he said that he spoke five languages and Ryback barely spoke one. They had probably the best possible match that you could expect out of Ryback. There was a point in the finishing sequence where it was believable that Cesaro was going to hit the neutralizer, but Ryback won with the Samoan drop soon after. Mark Henry then made his way down for a quick faceoff, before Henry walked down to the ring awaiting Zack Ryder. As expected Henry squashed poor Zack in less than two minutes. The movie trailers continued this week with a trailer for the Marine 3 with Miz. Miz’s microphone failed to work again; this has to be a rib. Miz then brought out Ric Flair who was at ringside for his match with Ziggler. Langston laid Miz out with a distraction from AJ, Flair proceeded to land a flurry of chops on Langston, but he no sold and Miz made the save. Miz then submitted Ziggler with the figure four. There really is only so much that you can do with a man before nobody cares. Jerry Lawler proceeded to call Big Show vs. Sheamus vs. Punk vs. Orton “THE BIGGEST RAW MAINEVENT OF ALL TIME” – yes, I know.

 

Out came Rock to “Rocky” chants. Rock did some comedy talking about his trip to Panama and then segued into his “finally…” line. Cena made his way out, obviously to a negative reaction. Cena said that Rock didn’t know how he felt, because he had never failed at anything. He had told the closest to him that it meant the world to him, failed, and that made him feel worthless. The crowd chanted “Cena sucks”. He said that it was not just a match, but a shot at redemption to right the biggest wrong of his life. He said that he wasn’t throwing his chance away, which was funny, given the fact that two weeks ago he was throwing his title shot around willy nilly. Rock said that Cena didn’t know how much that meant to him. However, it meant so much more to Rock than it did to Cena and he went on about how much the people meant to him. Cena then proceeded to quote Mike Tyson saying that to be the greatest who has ever lived you have to beat every man living. He had defeated every man except the Rock, he did his “your time is up my time is now” gimmick. Rock gave him a quote “winning is about heart, you just have to have it in the right place”, the man that said that was Lance Armstrong, and he said that he was full of crap just like Cena. Rock said that Cena thought he could beat him, but he knew that he could beat Cena and that was their biggest difference. He then did his “if you smell” line very slow and in a very serious manner to close off the segment. Initially when they were quoting athletes back and forth, I thought that it simply wasn’t going to work, but by the end of the segment I felt that the material was far more intense than during last year’s angle. They aired a clip of Undertaker’s entrance from earlier.

 

Jack Swagger was then in the ring with Zeb Coulter to face Jim Duggan with Dusty Rhodes and Sgt. Slaughter. Swagger laid Slaughter, Rhodes and Duggan out with a two by four and locked in the figure four on Duggan. Del Rio didn’t make his way out and Swagger just stood in the ring for ages. There was then another Marine 3 trailer. Yes, for the third week in a row it was Team Hell No versus the Prime Time Players. Oh, and yes Ted DiBiase was at ringside. Kane pinned Young with a chokeslam and DiBiase stuffed a hundred dollar bill in Young’s mouth, which Bryan stole while nobody was watching. Well, it looks like the build to Kane/Bryan at Mania was swiftly cut, or they are doing it wrong. Clay and Tensai came out followed by the Honkey Tonk Man. 3MB said that nobody wanted to see Honkey. Tensai pinned McIntyre with a rollup, which makes you wonder why they didn’t just have Clay and Tensai land their splash. Honkey proceeded to dance with Tensai and Clay, and he broke his guitar over Slater’s head. There was, indeed more movie content, this time with Barrett’s film. Fandango made his way out, and attempted to get Roberts to pronounce his name correctly, and he refused to wrestle due to Roberts’ pronunciation. This angle is just incredibly bad.

 

A video package aired of the Triple H/Lesnar angle from last week. Triple H then made an incredibly long entrance. He said that when he visited Vince in the hospital and saw his wife and children crying, and he was smiling inside, because he had his reason to face Lesnar. He basically asked if Lesnar was man enough to accept his challenge and that was the promo. It wasn’t anything ground breaking, but it was straight to the point and served its role. They aired a video from the Shield. The Shield said that they also had an undefeated streak and justice was always watching. Del Rio had a match with Wade Barrett, and Swagger and Coulter made their way up the entrance ramp. Del Rio landed up submitting Barrett in the middle of the ring, as Coulter held Swagger back from storming the ring. The New Age Outlaws made it out. Road Dogg has a gray beard now and has aged quite a bit. Primo and Epico were on the outside ready for a match. Gunn pinned Primo with a fameasser. They aired some slightly less embarrassing tOuts. The majority of the roster was out there for Mae Young’s real 90th birthday celebration, the cake had Mean Gene’s name on, but that’s besides the point. Of course, Punk interrupted for his match.

 

He was followed by Sheamus, Orton and Big Show. The first big spot of the match was where Big Show landed a knockout punch on Punk. It seemed as if Sheamus was out of place, as Big Show was left staring at Punk an awful long time before Sheamus interrupted. Sheamus ducked the punch, and landed the brogue kick, which led to Orton running in with the RKO, and Punk landing a highkick and GTS for the win. The match was good and all, but I really didn’t see the point in it. The whole thing was rather strange, as surely it would have made more sense for Punk to cut a promo and have Undertaker interrupt. After all Undertaker didn’t even issue a challenge at the start of the show. Undertaker came down to the ring after the match to close the show off.

 

Monday Night RAW Ratings For March 4th 2013

 

RAW on Monday did another really good rating, in fact it was the best rating that they have done in months apart from the post Rumble show, which did gigantic numbers. The show drew a 3.52 rating and 5.01 million viewers, and it was the number one show for the night on cable for the first time in weeks. The show was star heavy with Rock, Undertaker, Flair and Triple H all on the show, along with many segments building to WrestleMania itself. The funny thing was that unlike in the past where most of the nostalgia segments like the New Age Outlaws return or Slaughter and Duggan were able to almost carry the show that was not the case this time around. It was in fact the Cena/Rock angle and Undertaker Mania direction that carried the show to this success more than anything. I would assume that the reasons for the failure of nostalgia to act as a show carrying drawing card would simply be because they have done so many shows like this over the course of the last nine months or so.

 

The first segment, which was the Undertaker entrance coupled with the CM Punk/Orton/Sheamus/Big Show segment did a 3.7 rating, which is around what they have been opening at for the last few weeks. The Ryback vs. Antonio Cesaro match lost 427,000 viewers, which is to be expected given just how many viewers there were at the start of the show. Mark Henry vs. Zack Ryder gained 142,000 viewers, which comes as somewhat of a surprise Miz vs. Dolf Ziggler with Flair at ringside only stayed even, which wasn’t bad considering the significance of the segment, although it was an angle featuring Ric Flair. Then in the 21:00 time slot the Rock/Cena segment gained 855,000 viewers to a 4.1 quarter, which was a phenomenal gain.

 

The 20:00 to 21:00 hour drew 4.97 million viewers (2,132,000 viewers and a 1.69 rating in the 18-49 demo), which was up by around 200,000 viewers overall from last week. It was the number three hour for the night on cable and the 18-49 viewership was the third highest this year.

 

Then in the post 21:00 segment Jack Swagger attacking Duggan, Slaughter and Rhodes lost 712,000 viewers, which seems like a steep post 21:00 drop-off, but when you look at how many viewers they had coming in and the quality of the segment itself it really came as no surprise. Then the Team Hell No vs. Prime Time Players w/ DiBiase at ringside, plus the Tensai/Clay vs. 3MB match lost 142,000 viewers. The Fandango segment lost 284,000 viewers, which certainly shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The big Triple H promo at 22:00 gained 427,000 viewers, which is good for that segment.

 

The 21:00 to 22:00 hour drew 5.24 million viewers (2,448,000 viewers and a 1.94 rating in the 18-49 demo), which was up by around half a million viewers overall from last week, it was the number one hour for the night on cable and did the highest viewership in the 18-49 demo the entire year.

 

In the post 21:00 segment Wade Barrett vs. Alberto Del Rio lost pretty much exactly what the Triple H promo had gained. The Mae Young birthday segment before the mainevent lost a further 142,000 viewer and was the lowest rated portion of the show. Finally the the fourway mainevent and overrun gained 570,000 viewers to a 3.7 overrun. The 22:00 to 23:05 segment drew 4.85 million viewers (2,358,000 viewers and a 1.86 rating in the 18-49 demo), this placed the hour as the second for the night on cable with the second highest viewership of any hour in the 18-49 demo all year, only behind the previous hour. The show did a 3.0 in males 18-49 and 1.2 in women 18-49, both up from last week. All in all I would consider this week’s show big success especially the second hour, which was perhaps one of the best hours so far this year in terms of viewership.

 

WWE –NXT

March 6th 2013 – Full Sail University, Florida.

Ben Carass.

 

Dusty Rhodes hit the stage to open up the show; The Dream booked Bo Dallas, Corey Graves and Conor O’Brian in a number one contenders triple threat match then stated that he had “beefed up” the security in order to keep The Shield out of the GM’s house.

 

Byron Saxton introduced the NXT Tag Team Champions, however only Adrian Neville emerged from the back; Judas Devlin and Scott Dawson were already in the ring. Neville stated in his thick North Eastern English accent that Oliver Grey had gone missing sometime after warming up for the match then offered to take on both geeks regardless.

 

Handicap Match: Adrian Neville vs. Judas Devlin and Scott Dawson

 

Neville used his speed early for some brief shine, but the heels soon took over due to the two-on-one advantage and got the heat. During a chinlock from Devlin, Bray Wyatt led out Harper and Rowan on the stage; The Family dragged the limp carcass of Oliver Grey to the top of the ramp and Wyatt draped a tag belt over the fallen Grey.

 

Neville attempted to leave the ring to check on his partner, however he was cut off and the heat was resumed momentarily. Neville didn’t run wild for a comeback and the finish came when Dawson set up for a superplex but was dumped to the mat then Neville hit the British Airways for the three count.

 

Adrian Neville defeated Judas Devlin and Scott Dawson via pinfall, at 3:22.

 

Immediately after the three count, Neville completely no sold the match and sprinted up the ramp to check on Grey.

 

The match simply existed and even Neville didn’t care enough to sell anything after the bell. I enjoyed the stuff with The Wyatt Family dragging out Grey’s unconscious body; it just felt like an old school wrestling angle to me and was a nice way to keep their feud going.

 

Leo Kruger made his way out to face Yoshi Tatsu. It may be down to all the generic rock band produced entrances songs, but Kruger’s new music is awesome. I wasn’t sure about it last week, but seeing his menacing entrance made me excited to see this crazed South African beat someone unmercifully.

 

Yoshi Tatsu vs. Leo Kruger

 

Yoshi actually got some offence in, so Leo backed off like a true heel; Kruger took over after a cheap shot to the throat and a shoulder to the ring post spot. Leo worked over the arm with holds then delivered a crossface chicken wing-type shoulder breaker. After a big clothesline, Leo locked in the London Dungeon to get the tap out.

 

Leo Kruger defeated Yoshi Tatsu via submission, at 3:01.

 

A London Dungeon! I’ve always been a fan of Leo, but with his new music and this new finish (which I pray they stick with) he is quickly becoming one of my favourite guys on the whole show. The match was nothing special, just a way to get Leo over as a strong single after splitting with Ohno.

 

Cameron and Naomi danced themselves down to team with Sasha Banks; Aksana, Audrey Marie and Alicia Fox appeared as their opponents. I was going to make a comment about the heels potentially being billed as AAA, but I figured that would be disrespectful of the memory of Antonio Peña.

 

Sasha Banks, Cameron & Naomi vs. Aksana, Audrey Marie & Alicia Fox

 

With some classic WWE revisionist history, Dawson claimed Alicia was the first African-American Divas Champion like Jacqueline and Jazz never existed or held the old Women’s title; this irritated me. The heels got the heat on Cameron; they teased the tag a few times, but nobody cared then finally Naomi came in off the hot tag. Naomi ran wild all over the heel trio and picked up the win with a reverse leg lariat.

 

Sasha Banks, Cameron & Naomi defeated Aksana, Audrey Marie & Alicia Fox via pinfall, at 4:25.

 

Cameron was utterly atrocious here and since she sold for the majority of the match, this was not good at all. Things livened up when Naomi came in; she got the crowd into the match with all her wacky spots and seems to be pulling them off more crisply each time she is in the ring. She defiantly has something that a lot of WWE Divas past and present would dream to posses: actual athleticism. If it were up to me, I’d have her working daily with Sara Del Ray in order to get the fundamentals down, because Naomi has the potential to produce entertaining matches; she just needs to work on the simple stuff.

 

Tom Phillips was with Bo Dallas in the back; Bo talked about being in the Rumble match and beating Wade Barrett then said he would not let a number one contender’s shot go. Bray Wyatt interrupted and told Dallas that The Family could have protected him from The Shield last week, but Bo stated: “I want nothing to do with your family” and walked away.

 

Bray was great here; he really has got a grasp of how his character should deliver his lines, unlike his brother Bo.

 

Summer Rae joined Renee Young for an interview in the back; Summer said she put Paige out of NXT and stated she would never comeback then claimed the only reason Paige got a reaction from the “losers” at Full Sail was because she was “attainable”, whereas Summer was not. Summer informed Renee to only refer to her as “the first lady of NXT” or she would treat her like “trash”, as she did Paige and added Emma would “find out next week”.

 

A video from The Shield faded into focus; Ambrose said they couldn’t stand the injustice they saw last week. Rollins claimed that they taught all the guys in the three-way main event a thing about justice then Ambrose stated that they had made things better on Raw, SmackDown and would do the same to NXT. Rollins asked “where’s my rematch for the NXT Championship?” and explained that their attention had been diverted elsewhere recently, but someday he would take back what was rightfully his. The promo closed with Ambrose declaring, “we’re taking back the NXT Title, just like we took back the WWE for the people” and Reigns yelling “believe in The Shield”.

 

Corey Graves was out first for the main event and Conor O’Brian followed with his spooky blue lighting. Bo Dallas came out to little reaction other than the occasion high pitched yelp.

 

Number One Contender’s Triple Threat Match: Bo Dallas vs. Corey Graves vs. Conor O’Brian

 

O’Brian was sent over the top by a clothesline from Bo then Graves began to work over Dallas; Graves spilled to the floor and took some shots, however O’Brian drilled Dallas with a big clothesline. O’Brian showed his strength and with some tedious offence then got the heat on both guys. Dallas and Graves made a tandem comeback and landed a double suplex, however Graves soon went after Bo. Dallas delivered a belly-to-back suplex then hit O’Brian with the old ten punch gimmick in the corner; Bray Wyatt showed up on the stage and caused a distraction which allowed Graves to escape another series of mounted punches.

 

Graves worked over Dallas for a while, with occasional stomps for O’Brian in the process; Bo was crotched on the top and Graves went for a superplex; O’Brian cut off the move and planted Graves with an electric chair facebuster, only to eat a second rope dropkick from Dallas. Bo followed up with a tornado bulldog off the back of O’Brian to Graves, as Wyatt headed down to ringside; Graves kicked Bo’s knee out and applied the Fullerlock, however O’Brian broke up the hold. The finish saw Dallas run wild on both guys and plant Graves with a belly-to-belly; Wyatt pulled Graves to the outside which cost Bo the three count and O’Brian hit a full nelson slam for the pinfall.

 

Conor O’Brian defeated Bo Dallas & Corey Graves via pinfall, at 15:09.

 

This main event felt like it lasted for an eternity; with the plodding O’Brian and the babyface that is not over one iota with the NXT audience, there was no atmosphere besides a few heel fans chanting for Graves. I cannot possibly see why O’Brian is in line for the shot, regardless of his recent stint of Raw house show matches against the likes of Zack Ryder; the guy has as much charisma as a marine anemone. We’ll have to wait until the next set of tapings on March 14th to see if Big E. holds onto his strap.

 

This show was a bit of a dud; they set up the Dallas/Wyatt match with the finish of the main event and The Family taking out Grey was nicely done, however the wrestling on this show was not great. Thank goodness for Leo Kruger and the London Dungeon or this edition of NXT would have depressed me greatly.

 

TNA Impact March 7th 2013

Impact Zone, Orlando, Florida

 

Overall Thoughts:

 

This was another enjoyable edition of Impact, but as a go-home show I simply didn’t feel it. The entire point of switching to the new format was so pay-per-views would mean something again, but if they are only going to make the matches a few weeks out and have no strong build then there was no point in changing the model. I don’t think that there should have been a brawl to close off the show involving Ray and Hardy, as they are in the world title program and should be kept separate from everyone else. It is a babyface match for the time being, and that’s fine, but I also felt that they didn’t really go hard enough on a hook, as they could have made a very strong story but failed to do so. Other than that everything is set in place for the show, but it should have been done with far more foresight as after today there are only two live pay-per-views left for the whole of 2013.

 

There was a graphic in memory of Paul Bearer. The show started with a segment that was almost parody level. Angle said that he hadn’t told anyone who it was that he saw under the mask all week, which means that he somehow escaped the club house and was unable to even tweet this person’s identity. Instead he waited an entire week so he could reveal it in a promo. Isn’t that a tad bit selfish? Wouldn’t he want to protect the rest of the roster? This was stupid. Out came Austin Aries so Angle wasn’t even in the first promo spot of the show. He said that he wished Ray and Hardy luck, but they disrespected him. Ray said that he would never be World Champion again. This led to Aries calling Hardy out for a match. Aries landed an axehandle off of the apron on Hardy before the bell for the early advantage. Aries was in control of Hardy before and after the break. Aries did Hardy’s taunt before landing a splash for the count of two and repeatedly arguing with Hebner. This led to Hardy making his comeback, sending Aries to the floor and landing a splash off of the apron. Hardy then landed both of his twists of fate and prepared for the swanton, but Matt Morgan ran in with a carbon footprint. Morgan went for a carbon footprint against the post, but Ray ran down with chain. Sting was backstage with his Lockdown team Storm, Magnus, Joe and Young. He gave each one of them a prep talk and was screaming; hyped up. He said that he would go up against anyone that got in his face that night.

 

The stalker cameramen approached Morgan backstage and he basically said that he would go through Hogan’s entire roster until he got what he deserved. A video package aired for Kurt Angle vs. Wes Briscoe. Wes Briscoe came out for a solo promo, and God was he bad. The crowd gave him the “what!” treatment. He said that Angle was worthless just like his medal for a sport that had been removed from the Olympics. This of course led to Angle coming down, Aces & Eights VP mask still in hand. He said that he had made a mistake by trusting Briscoe and he wouldn’t wait until Lockdown. Angle went straight after Briscoe and the trainers came out to separate them. Of course Brown was there too and when Angle realized that Brown was in the ring he ran after him, but was handed a low blow. Brown then stated that he was the VP of the Aces & Eights. After the break the Aces & Eights were celebrating backstage, and Brown planted seeds of mistrust saying that Sting didn’t know who he could trust. Sting landed the Stinger’s splash and sent Devon down to the floor, but they had a guy in the crowd throw a drink into Stings face; obviously a plant. Devon then got a pin in the ring after throwing Sting into the post and having him blade. The blood was so unnecessary, as it was completely undersold and didn’t add anything to the angle. Lei’D Tapa and Velez were backstage. Sky was being interviewed, when Kim came by and said that she was undefeated at Lockdown. This led to Sky slapping Kim and walking off. Pritchard and Snow were backstage and announced that Taz is no longer a judge on Gut Check. He brought Danny Davis out as a replacement, saying that he was a trainer of a man that you can’t see, referring to Cena. They approached Velez and Tapa backstage instead of in the ring. Pritchard said that they would be evaluating Tapa. This was the right choice, although both of them should have probably gone through. The wacky thing is that Velez did win her match, which is a little weird when looking at this from a kayfabe point of view.

 

Chavo Guerrero, Hernandez and Velvet Sky had a match with Kazarian, Daniels and Gail Kim. Daniels and Kazarian had the heat on Chavo for most of the match. The tags were eventually made to Sky and Kim. Sky slapped Daniels, Daniels prepared to go after Sky, Hernandez made the save, Kazarian cut him off, but Chavo went after him on the floor. Daniels missed an Asai moonsault and hit Kazarian instead. However, Kim was able to land eat defeat in the ring for the win. Sting was backstage covered in blood going mad with his bat. This led to an argument between Joe and Magnus. There was another shaky camera segment with AJ Styles. This time he simply shoved the cameramen back into the van and piefaced the camera. It was revealed at this point in the show that it was a best of three series TNA vs. Aces & Eights to decide the entry order. The second match of the night was Joe and Magnus vs. Bischoff and DOC. There were “You can’t wrestle!” chants for the whole time that Garrett was in. Magnus pinned DOC with an elbow drop following a mediocre TV match. King was interviewed backstage saying that he was the star of the X Division and he would do anything to keep the title. Young was goofing around with Storm backstage, when sting came by drenched in blood. Young said that he would step up, but Sting chose Storm. The three judges were in the ring and they brought out Lei’D Tapa. She was heavily booed as she cut her promo. Davis gave her a yes, and Pritchard mentioned Paul Bearer, which led to “Rest in Peace” chants. Pritchard gave a no with no valid reason. Tapa had been thrown off by the crowd to some extent, but managed to cut a sub-par promo. Snow gave her a yes, so they obviously saw what she could do and decided to give her a contract, which I am fine with since the match that she had with Velez last week was better than the Knockout’s match earlier on in the show. There was a video package for Lockdown. They cut to Robbie E saying that T would never be on “the list” again.

 

Anderson and Storm came out for a match. Towards the end of the match Storm went for the superkick when the Aces & Eights made their way to ringside, Team TNA made it out soon after, but Anderson landed the mic check for the win and advantage at Lockdown. Bully Ray made it out for a one on one promo segment with Hardy. Ray said that it would be the biggest TNA pay-per-view of all time, which I can guarantee will be false. He said that he was proud of Hardy and handed him the mic. Hardy said that he was proud of Ray too. Ray then got to the money segment of the promo saying that he couldn’t be proud of himself until he becomes champion, and he wouldn’t do that by any other means other than by pinfall. Just then Hogan came down on crutches. Hogan said that the company was ready for greatness and a leader could take them into the future, that man would be the next champion. Hogan said that Ray was like family, which led to Ray mouthing “I am family”. Just then the Aces & Eights ran out, which led to a giant brawl to close off the show.

 

WWE SmackDown – March 8th 2013.

Times Union Centre: Albany, NY.

Ben Carass.

Prior to the “Then, Now, Forever” intro, a graphic dedicated the show to William Moody. Before we get into the show I would like to say, this man and the Paul Bearer character were an integral part of my childhood and when I was old enough to discover his work as Percy Pringle III, it became clear to me that Moody was easily one of the top ten managers to ever perform in the pro wrestling business. A friend of mine that has not watched any WWE since the attitude era spoke to me at length for nearly half-an-hour about his memories of Paul Bearer. I should make it clear this friend of mine has a total distain for the current product and cannot understand why I still watch this “fake stuff”. Anyway, I think at that moment it hit me what an impact Moody had on the world; if you watched wrestling for even just a couple of weeks from 1991-1999, chances are you came across Paul Bearer. That iconic character still resonates with anyone that was lucky enough to witness Moody’s magical performances; March 5th 2013 was truly a sad day for us all.

 

We got a recap of last week’s Shield’s run in and the narrator hyped Sheamus vs. Big Show then they sold us the Swagger/Del Rio feud, before hyping Alberto vs. Ziggler for tonight.

 

Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter came out for an in-ring promo; since JBL is still away being a complete mad man, Cole and Josh checked in at ringside. Swagger welcomed everyone to his America and referred to himself as the “next World Heavyweight Champion”. Zeb claimed everyone in the audience shared their values, but were too scared to do anything about it and talked about people “sneaking” across the borders to steal jobs. Colter added they would represent the people in writing a new Bill of Rights for “legal citizens”. Swagger said “enough is enough” and he was going to, “take America back”; Zeb stated that anyone who disagreed with them was the problem, but he and Swagger were the solution. Alberto Del Rio appeared on the stage with Ricardo and claimed he would show everybody what Jack Swagger’s America was all about. A promo aired in which Del Rio and Ricardo parodied the intolerant heels and their YouTube videos; Ricardo was dressed like Zeb, while Del Rio played the role of Swagger. It was not funny, but it was not cringe-worthy like most of WWE’s attempt at comedy; they talked about Mexican food, but the best part was Ricardo pronunciation of “’Merica”. After the video, Del Rio’s music played and he winked at Swagger and Zeb who were not amused; Cole said, “Now that’s how you handle some bullies”.

 

This was an ok opening segment, but this feud has a long way to go before I begin to care about it. I’m usually good at detecting sweetened crowd reactions, however either WWE has upgraded their system or the audience this night in New York were actually into Del Rio and his wacky video, which may make my prediction last week of Alberto not being over at Mania look rather foolish.

 

3MB were in the ring after the break; they showed Slater taking an unprotected head shot with what must have been a heavily gimmicked Honky Tonk Man guitar. Team HellNo came down to face the band of geeks.

 

Non-Title Match: Team HellNo (Tag Champs) vs. Heath Slater & Drew McIntyre

 

Team HellNo controlled at the start, however 3MB took over when Bryan missed a flying knee off the apron and Slater scored with a clothesline. The heels got the heat on Bryan with stomps in their corner, until Bryan hit a belly-to-back for the transition and made the hot tag. Kane ran wild on Slater then set up for a chokeslam; Mahal caused a distraction and Slater eventually tried for an O’Connor roll. Bryan tagged himself in, but Slater shoved Kane into his partner and hooked a school boy for a two count; Bryan quickly transitioned to the “No” lock to get the submission.

 

Team HellNo defeated Heath Slater & Drew McIntyre via submission, at 4:03.

 

As usual, Bryan and Kane argued after the match.

 

Nothing special here; Slater trying an O’Connor roll on Kane was one of the most awkward things I’ve ever seen. I am completely mystified which direction they are going in with Kane & Bryan for Mania; I feared a singles match, but I think creative has realised nobody wants to see that. Unfortunately, there are no teams that would fit the bill for a title match at WrestleMania since the Rhodes Scholars have been disbanded and others like The Usos, PTP and 3MB have been buried beyond belief. The only thing I can see at the minute is the Outlaws getting one last shot at the gold, which could be great or a total disaster.

 

Matt Striker was backstage with Ziggler and his crew; Dolph stated the people voted him to face Del Rio because they wanted to see the biggest show stealing match in the history of SmackDown. Ziggler teased he would cash in the briefcase and AJ said “let’s make history babe”.

 

Ryback was making his way through the backstage area when Mark Henry showed up; the two starred each other down then went their separate ways. Josh said Ryback would be in action after the break.

 

If I cared about Ryback at all I would think the way they are setting up this match was smart, however I think we could have another Lesnar vs. Goldberg on our hands here.

 

For some reason, Brad Maddox joined Cole and Josh; probably because they couldn’t fit him in on the show on Monday then they aired Triple H’s promo on Raw and hyped Brock Lesnar’s response next week.

 

Damien Sandow was in the ring; he announced he would be facing a man that, “Darwin’s theory of evolution forgot”. Ryback interrupted Sandow’s loquacious rant and headed down to the ring.

 

Ryback vs. Damien Sandow

 

Sandow took some power moves, but gained the advantage by luring Ryback back into the ring after the old chase around ringside. Sandow got the heat then Ryback fought up from a chinlock to start his comeback and hit the meat hook and the shellshock for the finish.

 

Ryback defeated Damien Sandow via pinfall, at 3:19.

 

This was paint-by-numbers stuff, but I guess they have to build Ryback back up if he is going against Henry. During the match, Cole announced that the Rhodes Scholars would reunite to take on the New Age Outlaws on Raw; no prizes for guessing who is going over in that one. The Outlaws at Mania is looking even more likely.

 

Footage of The Shield taking out Big Show with the triple powerbomb after Raw aired then Matt Striker interviewed the giant in the locker room. Show said he wasn’t a guy to pick sides and claimed he would knock out anyone in his way, including Sheamus. Show told Striker that Sheamus and Randy Orton were responsible for the attack by The Shield then balled up his fist and stated that was all he needed.

 

Ricardo Rodriguez introduced Alberto Del Rio and he came out for the non-title contest; Brad Maddox was still on commentary, he said he was there to make “Friday night SmackDown the Monday night Raw of Friday nights”. A Fandango vignette aired then Dolph Ziggler made his entrance with AJ and Big E.

 

Non-Title Match: Alberto Del Rio (World Champion) w/Ricardo Rodriguez vs. Dolph Ziggler w/ AJ & Big E. Langston

 

As the two went for the opening collar and elbow, it was obvious they made an edit and cut to a lock up later in the match; Ziggler took control and hit a splash in the corner. Big E. landed a cheap shot, so Ricardo threw his towel at Langston; inexplicably, AJ prevented Big E. from demolishing the ring announcer. This allowed Ricardo to grab his bucket and he soaked AJ with the water it contained; AJ chased Ricardo around ringside, until Big E. physically restrained her. Charles Robinson had enough of this buffoonery and ejected Dolph’s crew.

 

Ziggler was in the ascendency after the break and had the heat; Del Rio got a sunset flip in for a hope spot, but Dolph took over again after a dropkick. Swagger and Zeb were shown watching on a monitor in the back then Alberto fought up from a chinlock to hit a flapjack for the transition; in an act of insanity, Ziggler took a reverse headlock superplex as the double down spot. Del Rio started his comeback after a trade-off of shots and delivered a double-knee backbreaker for a two count then came off the top rope; Ziggler caught him with a dropkick in mid-air for a nice near fall. Del Rio hit a German suplex and Dolph landed his big DDT during the false finishes. Alberto countered the Zigzag and Ziggler escaped the armbreaker; Del Rio went for a tilt-o-whirl, but Dolph landed on his feet, although Alberto still managed to apply the cross armbreaker to end a great finishing sequence.

 

Alberto Del Rio defeated Dolph Ziggler via submission, at 13:05.

 

After two weeks of lacklustre matches on SmackDown, this was highly entertaining despite being edited at the start. The match really picked up after AJ and Big E. were thrown out and Dolph took the reverse superplex; the falsies were timed nicely and the finish was pulled off with expert precision. However on a negative note, Ziggler losing every week is truly getting old fast; I will refrain from ranting about booking the future World Champion like a total loser and just say this needs to end now. If not, they might as well just have Dolph drop the briefcase to someone else and forget the last 7 months even happened.

 

AJ was drying herself off in the back; Daniel Bryan showed up and said she looked like a “Shetland pony”. AJ told him she didn’t care what he thought, because her new boyfriend would be the World Heavyweight Champion when he cashes in the briefcase. Bryan stated that unlike Ziggler, he didn’t just carry around a briefcase, but he was the World Heavyweight Champion; AJ remarked about the 18 second loss and Bryan told her she should be used to things lasting 18 seconds with Ziggler.

 

Mark Henry meandered down to the ring to face Yoshi Tatsu.

 

Yoshi Tatsu vs. Mark Henry

 

Henry squashed Yoshi with the World’s strongest slam.

 

Mark Henry defeated Yoshi Tatsu via pinfall at 0:39.

 

A simple way of setting up Henry for the monster vs. monster match with Ryback, which is intriguing to me for all the wrong reasons.

 

The Donald Trump Hall of Fame video package rolled then Sheamus was interviewed by Matt Striker. Sheamus responded to Big Show’s statement earlier by making some bad jokes about him looking like Shrek and not washing his gear then said it would be his fault when he kicks Show’s head off during their match.

 

I’m not sure what bothered me more, this horrendous promo from Sheamus or the fact that this was the third interview segment with Matt Striker on this show.

 

After a recap of the Rock/Cena segment on Raw, Kaitlyn and Tamina were ready to square off. Layla was at ringside and Josh explained that she wanted to be in Kaitlyn’s corner for some reason that he and Brad Maddox explained, “Makes no sense”.

 

Non-Title Match: Kaitlyn (Diva’s Champion) w/Layla vs. Tamina Snuka

 

Cody Rhodes was shown watching in the back as Kaitlyn took an ugly face-first bump into the second rope. Tamina shoved Layla to the floor before rolling Kaitlyn back inside; Layla tried to enter the ring, but was stopped by the ref. This somehow distracted Kaitlyn and Tamina pinned her after a Samoandrop.

 

Tamina Snuka defeated Kaitlyn via pinfall, at 1:23.

 

The most entertaining things about this match were: Kaitlyn’s face-busting rope bump and Maddox referring to Cole as “Mikey C”.

 

Cody was still watching in the back; Sandow approached him and said they needed to strategize before their match with the Outlaws. Cody asked Damien what he thought of Kaitlyn “as a woman” and he replied, “She’s made the most of what she can, considering she comes from a clearly deficient genetic pool”. Cody continued to gaze longingly at the screen.

 

I think we all saw this coming after the little interaction the two had last week; I suppose this could get Cody over as a babyface, but it may also just turn him into a total dork.

 

Another Fandango vignette aired; it said he would be debuting next. Justin Gabriel was in the ring, awaiting the ballroom maestro. Fandango was unhappy at how Lilian Garcia pronounced his name then did the same shtick he did with Striker last week and Justin Roberts on Raw. He said the fans could blame “Jillian” for him not making his debut and left with his female dancer.

 

Booker and Teddy were watching in the GM’s office; Book was annoyed and told Teddy to find “flamingo” and inform him that he had better compete the next time he is booked in a match. Teddy tried to correct Book’s pronunciation of “Fandango”, but the Booker man sent him off to do his job.

 

This Fandango gimmick has already become tiresome; I know Vince has a thing for wacky gimmicks, but this one has as much chance of getting over as TL Hoper in my book.

 

They set up a recap of The Undertaker’s return; Cole had clearly been hanging out with Jack Swagger and said Raw started not with a “bang”, but with a “bong”.

 

I assume he meant “gong” or Michael Cole inadvertently revealed himself as the WWE’s Joe Rogan, only without the extensive product knowledge.

 

Sheamus hit the ring for the main event; Big Show was out after the commercial break and they showed The Shield run in from last week again.

 

Sheamus vs. The Big Show

 

The two traded shots and Show took over with a spear; Sheamus tried to get some offence going with the clubbing forearms, but Show powered out and tossed him into the time keeper’s position.

 

Show had the heat after the break and delivered a sidewalk slam; Sheamus cut off an attempted Vaderbomb, however Show pulled out his fall-away powerbomb for a two count. Sheamus started his comeback after some needless unprotected headbutts then countered a chokeslam into a DDT and hit the white noise. Show rolled to the floor to avoid the Brogue kick and they had a brief brawl on the outside; Sheamus scored with the Brogue as Show was climbing back into the ring.

 

The Shield’s music hit and they made their entrance through the people; Randy Orton ran down to stand beside Sheamus and The Shield began a three-on-two assault.

 

Sheamus & The Big Show fought to a no contest in 10:25.

 

Big Show joined the fight and helped the babyfaces clear the ring, however Show dropped Sheamus with the KO punch then Orton planted Show with an RKO. Randy and The Shield stared each other down and Cole hyped Brock Lesnar for Raw on Monday.

 

Considering the main event and entire final segment was a rehash of last week, only with Sheamus in place of Orton, this was surprisingly enjoyable. The match was pretty entertaining, mostly due to both guys hitting each other very hard and the 6 man brawl afterwards showed that the team of Orton, Sheamus and Show would pose a legitimate challenge to The Shield. If it were up to me, I would just turn Show and stop this feuding with his teammates; he’s turned so many times that it wouldn’t make any difference at this stage in his career.

 

The show was a typical middle of the road edition of SmackDown; no feuds were really furthered. Del Rio embarrassed Swagger and Colter, Ryback and Henry faced off again, plus The Shield were taken out by Orton, Sheamus & Show, however they ended up right back where they started with the potential team fighting with each other. As usual, SmackDown served as a pacifying stopgap between Monday nights and would not hinder anyone’s enjoyment of the WrestleMania build if they had better things to do on a Friday night than watch a programme which serves little purpose in the grand scheme of things.

 

Next Week’s Issue

 

Next week we cover TNA’s Lockdown pay-per-view, more on the Road to WrestleMania, Impact on the Road, All Japan, Ben Carass covers NXT and Smackdown as always, the news and so much more! Of course for more you can always head over to CubedCircleWrestling.com.

 

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Ben Carass’s Twitter Account: @BenDosCarass

 

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