So it’s been awhile since I wrote one of these up and to say that a LOT has gone down in the wrestling world would be the understatement of the year. So I’ll do my best to organize my thoughts on everything prowrestling related.
First off, The Marking Out Podcast has been put on long-term and possibly permanent hiatus. The fact is that between recording, doing the post production and then sharing it across all the various social media groups and outlets I used to post it to, coupled with recording Yes and No Radio for PWInsiderElite.com, it just got to be too much with my long work days plus the commuting that something had to go.
It wasn’t an easy choice, because I truly loved recording it each week, talking with Danielle and Scott for a couple hours about professional wrestling on a weekly basis. To everyone who ever downloaded an episode and listened, I thank you. I’ve met a number of people who I didn’t know before starting down the road of podcasting who have told me they’ve enjoyed our show and look forward to each episode and it’s for all of you that the show lasted as long as it did. In a perfect world, I’d love to continue it on for years on end, but this isn’t a perfect world and the reality is that real life does come first. So thank you to all of our weekly listeners.
If you would like to continue to listen to my thoughts on professional wrestling, I can be found on PWInsiderElite.com’s Yes and No Radio along with TJ Parsons and Scott Tison. An elite membership is fairly inexpensive considering all the content on a weekly basis along with all the amazing news stories they break. Dave Scherer, Mike Johnson and the rest of the crew are all VERY good at what they do. I know I tell Dave every year that the $69.99 is the easiest $70 I spend for a year’s worth of content. That works out to be under $6 per month, hardly breaking the bank.
Otherwise, I’ll be here on my blog site sharing my thoughts perodically as well.
Now that that’s out of the way, we’ve been the beneficiaries of some seriously awesome wrestling over the last few months!
First off, the “Brand Extension” (how a splitting of a roster is an extension is beyond me) is now in full effect and for the most part has created some new exciting feuds, elevated some talent and has overall made both Raw and Smackdown both very fun and entertaining shows to watch on a weekly basis.
First, it started off with the ascension of Dean Ambrose to becoming the WWE World Heavyweight Champion and taking the title to Smackdown by successfully defending his title in a triple threat match with Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, who were both drafted to Monday Night Raw in their PPV main event match at Battleground.
Since then, Dolph Ziggler made a great bid for the title at Summer Slam while AJ Styles has really been knocking it out of the park on a nightly basis. First, he defeated John Cena on the level at Summer Slam and then just a couple of weeks ago, he defeated Ambrose for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. His heel persona has been just off the charts great and it’s really been a breath of fresh air, with WWE allowing a heel champion be portrayed the way he has been the last couple of weeks. He’s not a pussy heel who ducks fights and weasels his way out of matches. He’s good, he knows he’s good and he’s cocky about it, and there’s nothing wrong about that in the least.
On the Raw side of things, Finn Bálor was drafted in the first round from NXT, immediately put into contention for the newly formed WWE Universal Championship and became the first to win the thing! Unfortunately, he suffered an injury in the match in which he won the title at Summer Slam by defeating Seth Rollins and had to relinquish the title just 24 hours later.
Since then, Kevin Owens has claimed the title by defeating Big Cass, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins in a fatal four way with the help of Triple H. Since winning the title, he’s done exactly what he’s been doing his whole run thus far…having some kick ass matches with some very talented performers. His partnership with Chris Jericho has been some of the most entertaining stuff on the show on a weekly basis.
Meanwhile on the undercard, you’ve got the Miz as your Intercontinental Champion who is just killing it from a character perspective while also being as solid as he’s ever been in the ring while also getting into a very interesting & heated feud of sorts with Smackdown General Manager, Daniel Bryan.
Over on the Raw brand, Rusev & Roman Reigns have had a very entertaining feud. They’ve kept Roman off the mic for the most part and have allowed him to be more of the silent but violent type, which as I’ve said on the podcast…really works for him.
Also, while all of this has been going on, they’ve also done a nice job in building the tag team divisions on both the Raw and Smackdown rosters, rebuilding the Usos as a pair of bad ass heel competitors while also beginning to show what an amazing tag team American Alpha is and will be for the future of the Smackdown brand.
They’ve built two very competitive and fierce womens’ divisions and have now brought back cruiserweight wrestling to the forefront. (More on that later)
One of the more interesting stories during this brand extension has been the audience’s rejection of the design of the WWE Universal Title. The night it was revealed, the crowd crapped all over it and WWE’s laziness in giving the title it’s own look. Essentially, it’s just a pallet swap of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship where the belt itself is red and the underline on the WWE logo is black.
To be honest, I can see both sides of the argument. By mimicking the other title, you don’t get the feeling by looking at the two side by side, that one just looks cooler than the other and could be perceived as being a better title to win. On the flipside, I’m looking at it from a marketing perspective. WWE likes to sell replicas of their title belts. During the last brand split, I had a replica of both the WWE spinner title and the World Heavyweight “big gold” belt. Both were unique and had their own design and style. Now, as a belt collector…when I go to WWEShop.com, I have these choices: big WWE belt on black or red leather, little WWE belt on white leather with either red or blue background, Tag Titles in black/bronze or blue/silver or the US, Intercontinental or purple Cruiserweight titles. Nine times out of ten, someone’s not gonna buy BOTH the WWE World Heavyweight AND the WWE Universal Titles, there’s just no reason to.
Over in NXT, it’s continued to be a strong product for WWE. Gotta say, I’m still a little bummed that I couldn’t make it to the TakeOver Brooklyn II special to see Shinsuke Nakamura win the title, to witness Bobby Roode’s #GLORIOUS entrance, or Bayley’s final NXT match in person just a year after being there to see her win the NXT Womens’ Title. It should be interesting to see how the brand rebounds from losing so many big stars to the Raw & Smackdown rosters.
Finally, onto the Cruiserweight Classic…I can’t say enough good about this whole thing! WWE really outdid themselves with this 10-week series on the WWE Network! They scoured the globe to bring in some of the greatest talent who all wrestle at a weight of 205 or less and tossed out the sections of the WWE rulebook that state that matches need to have babyfaces & heels and have continuing storylines that give the participants alterior motives for winning their matches.
Right off the bat, we were introduced to talents we hadn’t ever seen before on WWE TV like Kota Ibushi & Akira Tozawa from Japan, Gran Metalik (Mascara Dorada) from Mexico, Lince Dorado from Puerto Rico, Jack Gallagher & Zack Sabre, Jr. from the UK, Noam Dar from Scotland, Drew Gulak, Tony Nese & Cedric Alexander from the US along with TJ Perkins of Filipino descent who we last saw on a national stage wrestling under a mask in TNA Wrestling as Manik/Suicide. They even threw in a few of the talents WWE has had signed to developmental deals who have performed for NXT: Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa & Rich Swann and also brought back a couple of familiar faces from past years in WWE: Yoshihiro Tajiri & Brian Kendrick.
We had a 32-man single-elimination tournament to showcase these various talents to decide who was the best. Nothing more than just flat out amazing wrestling for 10 straight weeks. If you haven’t seen any of this and have the Network, please go and watch it. It’s well worth the $9.99 of one month’s subscription alone. These guys brought some amazing athletics to the forefront and gave me a show that I actually looked MORE forward to watching on a weekly basis than NXT…which is really saying something!
All the while…over in TNA Wrestling, they’ve been delivering a very good show on a weekly basis for the entire time they’ve been on Pop TV. Matt Hardy continues week in & week out to show that when given full reign on his character, that he can keep even the smartest of smart wrestling fans guessing. His “Broken” Matt Hardy gimmick has been one of the most entertaining characters in all of professional wrestling. And while it’s so out there, his interaction with everyone else on the roster has been handled so perfectly. Go and watch Final Deletion or Delete or Decay, they’re definitely some of the most creative, silly, campy and flat out weird segments on a wrestling show in ages!
Anyway, I think I’ve gotten my point across here…if you’re not watching wrestling right now, there’s a TON of great stuff out there just from the last few months that is well worth your time to watch!
That’s my story & I’m sticking to it!