Red's Pro-Wrestling Digest #89: Weekly TV Roundup, 3rd Week of January (AEW, NJPW, CMLL, IMPACT) + a look at Hard to Kill
- Impact World Title, Full Metal Mayhem: Alexander(c) vs Bully NR
- Impact Tag Titles, Elimination: MCMG(c) vs Bullet Club vs Major Players vs Heath, Rhino ***1/4
- Digital Media Title: Hendry(c) vs Moose NR
- Edwards vs Gresham ***3/4
- Impact Women's Title vs Career Apuesta: Grace(c) vs James(cr) ***1/2
- The Firm, Cutler vs Wingmen, Chaos Project **1/2
- Cage vs Mack ***
- Eliminator: Athena vs Zhang NR
- BCC vs Top Flight vs Butcher & Blade ***1/4
- BCC vs Butcher & Blade ***1/4
- AEW All-Atlantic Title: Orange(c) vs Lethal **1/2
- Young Bucks vs Top Flight ****
- Hager vs Starks **1/4
- Danielson vs Bandido ****1/4
- Storm vs Willow **3/4
- TNT Title: Darby(c) vs KUSHIDA ***3/4
- IWGP World Heavyweight Title: White(c) vs Okada ****1/2
- Bully, Hogan, Steelz vs James, Kazarian, Grace *1/2
- Pit Fight: Bailey vs King ****
- NWA World Historic Welterweight Title: Volador Jr(c) vs Romero ****1/2
- Best 2/3 Falls: Soberano Jr vs Templario NR
- Jungle Boy vs Page **1/4
- Cage vs Mack **1/2
- Garcia vs Action **3/4
Tragically, this week will always be remembered most for Jay's tragic and early death. I am saddened knowing that he, and his brother, got shit on in his final days by TV executives. Something stupid said years ago, since apologized for, by one of the most beloved and respected workers in the game was enough for a blacklist while the same networks continue to air films by folks that have said worse and have some questionable people on their payrolls, too.
The family have set up a Give Send Go. If you are able to help, HERE is the link.
We're going to start with a look at some Hard to Kill content. Watch this BTI above if you want a good collection of clips from the show, presuming you can't afford to watch the show itself, lack the effort to do so, etc. Some of the contests I cover briefly will have been watched in that manner, too.
First, a preshow X-Division Championship match. Why was this a preshow match? Who fucking knows. This CAN be watched free, HERE.
I watched BTI's look at Alexander versus Bully. I had no interest in watching more than that. It was very circus-acty and not anything I'd like to see more of. I haven't had much interest in seeing Bubba's work for years, finding him to be a cheap heat waste of TV space more often than not. He drains and drags down programs that he appears on and the talents he works with, too. The only thing I liked here was the table spot finish and the hope that I have that this ends their rivalry for now.
Alexander deserves better.
The weak links brought down the tag team elimination bout a bit, but the overall contest was decent. MCMG retained but I'd admittedly love to see Bey and Ace win more matches instead of mainly taking L's. I also have little problem with Sabin and Shelley holding the belts for a while so...
Speaking of, the Digital Media defense was okay but was also a bit too sports entertainment in nature to really be much of anything. I mean, Santino was there pretending to be a random character from Master of Disguise.
Edwards and Gresham got things back on track and was actually a great singles match in general. I am a big fan of both dudes so I had decent expectations. They were largely met. The post-match return of PCO was fun, too. Perhaps the best part of the entire event!?
BTI seemingly skips the part where Kazarian revealed that he had split from AEW. I'm curious to see how this goes but understand and appreciate his choice to jump over. It's really a return home more than anything else.
Mickie James did not retire and instead won gold. Pretty good stuff and a respectable main event to close out the event. A bit rough around the edges, keeping it from being rated any higher. Grace has really transformed herself into one of the better North American women's division workers.
Hard to Kill came off as a pretty decent representation of the current product. If you find something to enjoy here and think it's worth your time to see more, than that's a good thing. If not, than this show and the brand right now should likely be off-radar for now.
We start this week's TV roundup with four from...Elevation? A show I rarely watch has this many things that caught my eye. Note that the road to reboot for RW+B is nearing and my vacation is on the horizon. I'll be splitting for a few weeks with little to no updates during that window.
Monday night Elevation coverage started with Ethan Page clearly having a blast. Brandon Cutler joined All Ego and crew to take on The Wingmen and SAP and the Peter/Cutler rivalry was reignited. Admittedly I didn't expect much here but I was entertained by a recent match with this Page stuff and wanted to be entertained desperately. I also really had fun watching that Culter/Avalon program and wanted to see it renewed.
I was entertained for sure. A solid match with bits of comedy. Ethan and Kassidy continued to have drama.
Lucha Underground's spirit lived on a bit with Willie Mack getting a singles match against Cage next. Too bad Court is a master of underdelivery and TK doesn't have the huevos to actually revive the classic series.
They had less than six-minutes to work with, but it landed pretty decently. I have no idea whether or not Willie is set to get more dates in AEW, but I'm all for the dude popping up more often. Cage would take the W here as he continues to get a minor push since returning from purgatory. Good, but short and it ended when the fire was just getting going.
Athena squashed another, attacked after, and was ran off by a returning Yuka. The commentary crew had no idea who the TJPW talent was which felt a lot like the way Ring of Honor used to handled CMLL talent.
Dark Order spoke with Prince Nana backstage and asked if he wanted to join their faction. The odor vibes didn't match. Fun fact but El Generico currently works at that orphanage in Ghana.
Last from Elevation, Butcher and Blade came out with Bunny to take on Top Flight and Blackpool Combat Club's Claudio and Yuta in a big three team main event battle. A brawl at the edge of the ramp and a major dive from the flyers kicked us off and we got a nice sprint after the bell rang.
Blade and Yuta had a bit of an awkward moment but the rest worked pretty well. The Ring of Honor World Champ got a nice spotlight but Top Flight would take the W and most of the attention. A strong victory for the brothers and a good firecracker of a match.
Tuesday night Dark time.
The Butcher and The Blade would face Claudio and Yuta next, a main event working nice to follow the Elevation match above. The fans were pretty decent right off of the bat.
Again, the two sides would start with a brawl at ringside. It actually too a while before the match officially started and Bunny would get involved pretty quickly once it did. This actually had a very old-school vibe and I enjoyed it pretty decently for what it was.
Yuta playing dead for so fucking long reminded me a lot of Peter selling his hurt leg.
Excalibur, pretending to be Taz, would run down Dynamite a bit during this but skipped the Storm match. Unfortunate but commentary otherwise continued to be wildly entertaining. It's a big part of Dark's charm.
Dynamite no.172 Review
On Wednesday night Dynamite, we had a shit load of great content to get through.
The opening match this week felt like something booked by Jeff Jarrett. It was entertaining but neither worker much good and felt far closer to something Vince would throw on television than what I'd want on AEW's flagship. Circus act stuff.
That one would drop a lot of viewers off elsewhere and they'd miss out on...
Top Flight and Generation Me honored Mark and Jay in match two. Considering Top Flight had picked up a nice victory on Elevation, I wonder if this wasn't already planned and just happened to work out nicely as a tribute of sorts to the contributions of Mark and Jay. I couldn't get confirmation on that, but either way I loved the result. I'd love AR Fox versus Omega next week regardless of the outcome and a title defense after. Fantastic content!
Family therapy is planned for next week. No thanks. Max's rap was the only thing worth seeing here and I really dislike this program.
Adam Page told Renee he would gladly knockout Mox again and that he also had some fences to mend. A decent promo with a lot of little bits.
Starks did the expected and overcame the mma hat dude next. Overbooked but logical. They're trying hard to elevate Ricky. I'm sure this program is working for some but I'm not huge on it so far. When Starks was in nwa, back when I thought he was charismatic and a decent worker. I didn't see him as a huge star but he's used that charm to win over enough people in power and...now he's getting a chance to be exactly that; a big star. I love it when I am proven wrong in these kinds of ways, at least.
Starks would run off to end this.
Cole reminds us that he's back via package.
Jericho wants a tag match against Action and Ricky. His partner will either be Sammy or Garcia depending on the results of a Rampage match. Meh.
Bandido once again showed the AEW audience that he's one of the current lucha elites and generally a top five masked performer as Danielson continues his battle ladder. This angle currently seems destined to be Bryan killing it in dream matches and then MJF talking shit. Repeat as needed. That's what this was, too. The champ had a lot to say via the tron after previously running scared when faced with the sight of The American Dragon.
The program might not be for everyone but at least the wrestling has been fantastic. Shunma should get a shot at Byran next while he's in the states.
Saraya helped Storm beat Willow next, then the two solidified a heel turn as they'd attack in post. Hikaru would watch on as Ruby would run in and make the save. The women's blood and guts match between outsiders and "homegrown" talents that they're building to should be pretty sweet. Ruby is expected to turn from what I hear instead of Shida. Mercedes likely to be included.
MJF gave a wad of cash to Cage next and then slapped the big turd in the face as motivation for next week. Brian versus Bryan won't be the best match in the battle ladder, but it should be the best thing Cage has done since challenging Nakajima or perhaps even his Lucha Underground output.
Darby would retain in the main event against KUSHIDA. I wonder sometimes if the Time Splitter regrets leaving New Japan for WWE. Great, well worked stuff. I wonder if Darby is holding back a tad to ensure he was good to go for the retirement match in Japan. I am expecting him to drop the belt soon and then to go away for a while after.
In all, another good episode of the best pro-wrestling variety TV series. Not everything landed well, but the effort was there and the hits were big.
Overall rating for Dynamite no.172: 75/100%
New Japan on AXS 01/19 Review
Last week's five star classic set an impossibly high bar for the WK coverage episodes of this program, thanks to incredible performances from both Omega and Ospreay. This week's match was the only thing from the card, especially considering the laughable amount of time given to the STARDOM showcase, that could have matched it.
Jay White is one of the best in the world yet rarely pops up in conversations about such things. A tragedy for sure considering the fact that he makes MJF look like a bootleg version of himself and Miz a an even cheaper version. Controversial, hot, or stupid as fuck?
Anyway, Okada remains a god level performer and they have a history of excellence together too, so it seemed likely that they'd strike fire once again together.
They did. Kazy would best the Bullet Club leader and take the Power Rangers Championship off of his shoulders in the process. I miss the previous belts that they blended and still consider it a terrible mistake.
Their battle built slow and burned fierce down the stretch, providing for a triumphant and epic result thanks to the layout and talent involved. Things like this are the exact reason that I continue to return time and time again to NJPW.
Main events that feel like films, and this was a film.
A repeating demand of Too Sweet cries from the audience was super entertaining, by the way.
SHINGO would come out and demand the next shot.
New Japan on AXS is my favorite way to watch New Japan. This episode was truly fantastic and a must-see battle between two of the absolute best ever to do this. Make time to watch this if you have the time, urge, and ability to do so.
Overall rating for NJPW on AXS 01/19: 95/100%
Impact on AXS time.
A fallout edition of the weekly series, kicked off with a mixed trios affair and post-match angle meant to establish a few new stories moving forward. They made James look pretty weak, giving her the victory in the end in an attempt potentially to minimize damage. It still felt off. The entire thing felt a bit off, in fact. It could've been far better and everyone came off looking no better. Actually, some came off looking worse when it was all said and done.
I didn't watch the Santino stuff this time but the cameo of Ernest Miller might be of interest to some.
The Pit Fight overdelivered. Bailey rocked, King stepped up, and the entire thing landed well. This was the only thing on the episode I actually liked this week but it WAS fantastic, at least.
CMLL this week featured a gem.
Rocky stepped up and Volador woke up and they actually made a championship belt in Mexico seem important in our Mexico City main event of the event. Note that lately they've been charging fans to watch their Friday shows live. Issues this time made it free instead and it was certainly a good thing because it SHOULD mean more eyes on the product thanks to the buzz garnered by this very match.
Remember, they had Fantastica Mania on the horizon and built it up last week in the main event.
The program felt fresh simply because it felt like it was the most creative they had been in a while, despite it also being rather simple. CMLL truly is a pretty simple place, though.
Anyway, Rocky and Volador really killed it here. I'd actually be very surprised to see anything better in Mexico Arena all year and I think only Vikingo is capable of beating this performance in the country at all. I especially loved Romero's charisma and attitude in this one and the entire thing added up to be a legit MOTYC. In short, this overdelivered and is a legit must-see encounter.
CMLL is on fire this year.
I also watched a clip from Soberano and Templario's latest singles match together. Don't expect to see this one in full anytime soon, if ever, but the short bit I did see suggested that it was yet another quality outing from the two workhorse talents. Soberano would take the W and the two would show some respect to each other in post.
Perry and Cage was fine.
Cage and Mack was fine. Their Dark match was far better.
Action and Garcia was MOTN but that's not saying much. At this point I think it's clear that Action isn't the dude for this push. There are numerous guys on the roster that work the same style, have more ability and charisma, etc. and I just can't get behind the choice. I was originally fearful that he'd get that backburner love that AEW gives out at times instead of proper follow up but they have actually tried to make something of this.
It's just not landing and the JAS stuff is arguably weaker right now in quality output than they've been at any other time. A bad combo.
Oh, and a terrible segment ran with Eddie turning heel. He either doesn't like this angle or he had to take a shit. This felt like some awful WWE shit that you would've seen on Raw a few years ago.
Rampage felt like a massive waste of time this week and closed a rather decent week of content coverage on a low note. They can't all be homeruns, though.
Thanks, as always, for reading.
TV Wrestler of the Week: Rocky Romero
Wrestling TV Series of the Week: New Japan on AXS
Wrestling TV Match of the Week: Okada vs White
Best TV Storyline of the Week: Romero beating Volador ahead of FantasticaMania tour