The Good, Bad and Very Ugly in Pro Wrestling
The week of Monday, Oct. 28 to Sunday, Nov. 6, 2019 will no doubt go down as one of the most important in the history of modern professional wrestling/sports entertainment with the season premiere of WWE’S Monday Night Raw, the 8 p.m. ratings between WWE’s NXT and the debut of All Elite Wrestling’s (AEW) Dynamite shows on the USA and TNT networks respectively and the move of WWE’s Smackdown from Tuesdays on USA to Friday nights on Fox. In fact, there was so much happening that if you missed it, you missed a lot.
But that’s ok – because I present to you a recap of the good, the bad and the very ugly of one of the most energetic, fun and ultimately crazy weeks for wrestling fans in nearly 20 years.
Fans were treated to three special nights of television that hadn’t been seen since the mid 1990s with the aforementioned programs debuts. They had everything you could want with surprise debuts/returns (Cain Velasquez is in WWE?! Finn Balor is back in NXT?! Jake Hager is in AEW?!), title changes (see below) and all out insanity that brought back that “what’s next?!” feeling that’s been missing for ages. There was so much to take in if you don’t have a DVR, you need to get one ASAP as the AEW vs. WWE fun is clearly just beginning.
AEW is breaking ground in many ways that haven’t been seen before (or at least in quite some time) in sports entertainment, but their women’s division pales in comparison to WWE’s – and the inaugural title match between Riho and Nyla Rose proved it.
While Nyla Rose’s status as a transgender performer sparks controversy among some wrestling fans, her in-ring work – which saw her clearly moving at half-speed and then botch a powerbomb to a male foe – was a definite black mark on an otherwise stellar debut show for her upstart employers. Then again, given that she was working with the sub-100 pound Riho, Rose could be possibly forgiven as their “David vs. Goliath” storyline pushed the boundaries of a suspension of disbelief worse than Floyd Mayweather’s Wrestlemania moment with The Big Show ever did.
That Kofi Kingston/Brock Lesnar main event to end the big debut of Smackdown on Fox, however, was too real for anyone who invested in Kingston’s improbable run to the WWE heavyweight title.
Look, I and many other fans get it: Kingston ended up in the title picture only after Ali got injured, which led to him enjoying a Daniel Bryan “Yes!” movement-like run until he defeated him for the belt at Wrestlemania 35. It was arguably the biggest feel-good story in WWE in eons.
Then it ended in 9 seconds with Lesnar’s F-5 so that Velasquez could come out as an enormous surprise to let the world know he would eventually face “The Beast.”
Velasquez vs. Lesnar makes sense for WWE and its new Smackdown partner Fox. Both former UFC fighters, Velasquez beat Lesnar in MMA competition, making their eventual WWE showdown a big money fight. But to dispose of Kingston’s 11 years of service in 9 seconds cheapens and discredits everything he did to make his nearly 6-month title reign feel so special. Sure, Kingston was always going to lose to Lesnar, but he’s talented enough that WWE could have found another way for him to lose where it felt like his loss meant something
It could be worse, I guess – he could have had Jinder Mahal’s championship run ...
If Franklin Delano Roosevelt were alive, he’d probably call it “A pay-per-view (PPV) that will live
in infamy.” And he’d be right – because the 2019 Hell in a Cell (HIAC) PPV may go down as one
of the top 10 worst in professional wrestling history.
Starting off on fire with a women’s title match that proves how many light years WWE’s women’s division is, it validated everything that “The Man” persona of Becky Lynch has come to be. Next, Daniel Bryan, Roman Reigns, Luke Harper and Erik Rowan put on a much better than expected tag match to follow it up ... And Ali vs. Randy Orton was better than anticipated.
Then things slowly started to go downhill from there.
The Kabuki Warriors (Kairi Sane and Asuka) vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross ended with the ol’ Asian spits green mist shtick, the Vikings Raiders and Braun Strowman vs. The O.C. (A.J. Styles,
Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows) was saved only by Styles selling just how messed up he was (and honestly, would be in real life) after getting walloped by Strowman, which turned out to be a set up for another meaningless celebrity feud (with boxing champ Tyson Fury ... yawn).
Chad Gable vs. “King” Corbin was solid ... Until the backstage angle seemingly undid most of the match. Bayley’s title loss to Charlotte showed both the performer and WWE Creative isn’t certain how to get her over as a heel quite yet (and that Fox wants Flair in a top spot for SmackDown).
Then that Bray Wyatt/Seth Rollins match happened.
If you didn’t see it, you need to see it to believe how bad it was from start to finish. From the “spooky” red lighting to Rollins going from super insecure of how he was to handle “The Fiend” before snapping and going on a tirade that would have been out of place even in the Joker movie, the cheap disqualification finish that made ZERO sense given the nature of the match (see any HIAC match EVER) and then Wyatt’s Terminator-like resurrection to make Rollins spew blood from his mouth, the crowd’s boos were loud, long and undeniable.
The debacle was a reminder that AEW isn’t WWE’s biggest threat to its future; its inability to not get in its own way, however, is.
Agree? Disagree? Somewhere in between? Feel free to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s chat!