Elton's Weekly Wrestling High Spots and Botches: December 20-December 26
High Spots: "The enemies of my enemies are my friends." Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens must have heard that fire quotable and said to themselves "ay, that's facts!" Once MVP stopped gushing over Bobby Lashley's previous accomplishments (side note - Bobby's Blade-inspired drip was extra clean, I must say!) and Big E finished his verbal cutdown of "The Almighty," MVP got a chance to back up all that tough talk he's been spewing lately. Before the cane-wielding manager could get a good hit on the WWE Champion, Rollins and Owens slid through to give the champ and his new challenger a vicious beatdown. But their assault didn't last long, however - Big E and Lashley ultimately turned the tide in their favor. That hot opening segment played into the closing match of the evening, which was your usual solid WWE TV matchup featuring the brand's biggest stars. Lashley scored the winning pinfall, but Rollins and Owens ended up as the ones standing tall as Raw went off the air. I got a good pop out of both those sniveling heels shaking hands, teasing that they were gonna jump each other while their backs were turned, and proceeding to power walk towards each other and...hug it out! AEW's Best Friends had to be smiling somewhere watching that warm embrace take place.
So the final confrontation between Bianca Belair and Piper Niven took place here and it delivered the biggest crowd-popping moment of the entire show. After two weeks of teasing it, the "EST of WWE" finally found it in herself to hoist Niven up into the air and plant her with the KOD for the win! That was a nice payoff to this mini-feud between Raw's top two women's wrestlers. The fact that this match was actually worth a damn made that hype ending all the more newsworthy. Another match on this episode of Raw that left me pleased was the clash between Austin Theory and Finn Bálor. Those two young lads injected a ton of energy into their matchup and made everything they did look extremely crisp. I know y'all peeped that Spanish Fly off the top rope from Theory that was a clear shoutout to his trainer AR Fox! Theory screwed the pooch when he looked to take a quick selfie, though - that rookie mistake led to Bálor gaining the advantage and finishing Theory off for the big W. That was some damn good stuff right there.
Now was I super intrigued by that whole MizTV segment and the tag team match loss that led to the breakup of AJ Styles and Omos? Not really. But the final result I've been waiting for God knows how long finally came to pass! I couldn't have cared any less about those two going head to head with The Mysterios - all I cared about was what happened after Rey rolled up AJ for the win. Omos did his boy AJ dirty by ignoring his plea for a tag-in and decided to brutalize him instead. So I guess they're gonna settle their differences on Day 1, which is perfectly fine by me. I'm just happy AJ's a solo superstar once again who can go on to bigger and better things once he wraps things up with his former giant ally. Second side note - Omos uttering the words "trash ass..." as he left the ring was way funnier than it had any right being!
Chad Gable really had Randy Orton stressed during their brief encounter. He outwrestled him for the majority of their contest and proved his superiority as a grappling machine once again. Gable's supreme wrestling efforts were all for naught in the end, sadly. All it takes is one RKO to send anyone & everyone to Never Never Land and that's exactly what happened to good old Gable. Based on what happened after Orton's quick victory, Otis has his eyes set on taking down "The Viper" next. And as you've already guessed, your's truly is here for it.
Botches: Your weekly dosage of 24/7 Championship cow manure returned with some holiday cheer sprinkled all over it. So the corny factor was even higher than previous weeks' 24/7 circus antics here. Tamina & Dana Brooke practically don't exist to me at this point, I no longer get any laughs from anything R-Truth does nowadays, and I just wish Tozawa would hit the indies again & AEW to remind everyone of just how amazing he truly is. Damian Priest vs. Dolph Ziggler kinda fell short to me - it never really entered a higher gear, plus the countout ending was super lame. I'm definitely interested in all three men vying for the US Championship in a Triple Threat at some point. But the road to get there via this letdown of a segment really did it no favors. I'm happy that Theory and Bálor are gonna run it back again on the next airing of Raw. I'm just completely over having to watch Mr. McMahon continue to "mentor" Theory - his whole speech about firing people felt especially like another tone-deaf acknowledgment of WWE's shitty talent release habits this year.
We got a rare miss of a segment between Edge and The Miz this time. Like, Edge saw right through Maryse's crocodile tears and blatant insincerity, plus he called out The Miz 'cause he saw right through his predictable gameplan. Yet he still ended up falling right into The Miz's trap, which really made Edge look like a bumbling buffoon who couldn't even take advantage of the setup he called moments earlier. A pocketbook swing to the back of the head and a weaksauce slap from Maryse seriously tripped up Edge to the point where he got planted with a Skull Crushing Finale? Yeah, that was pretty stupid. Rhea Ripley and Queen Zelina are non-factors to me, so their match didn't exist to me as well. Moving on! Becky Lynch and Liv Morgan continued to remind me that it's way past my bedtime with another sleep-inducing promo that has me dreading their Day 1 rematch. Morgan never sounds convincing to me about anything and Becky's act is beyond tired at this point. I just wish we could get this whole expired feud over with already...
High Spots: WELP, BRON BREAKKER'S WINNING THE NXT CHAMPIONSHIP AT NEW YEAR'S EVIL! That's a forgone conclusion at this point now that everyone knows Bron's stepping up for a title rematch on the next episode of NXT. Ciampa and Bron hyped up their second meeting in the ring with a hella intense promo battle that got real nasty thanks to a slap, a choke, and a teased gorilla press slam. Bron's already the clear-cut face of NXT's "colorful" new regime, so it's about damn time he claimed the developmental brand's top prize. Dexter Lumis finally got his creepy gloved hands on Trick Williams! And to my genuine surprise, they had themselves a fun encounter. Once Roderick Strong ran out to pull Carmelo Hayes away from the action, Dexter and Lumus turned things up a notch once they re-entered the ring. Trick looked good out there even though he's still a work-in-progress, plus Dexter's offense always keeps me engaged. Nice to see old crazy eyes Dex get the win here!
On behalf of The Diamond Mine, Malcolm Bivens put out a challenge to the man Roddy scrapped with moments earlier. So at New Year's Evil, the NXT Cruiserweight Champion will take on the NXT North American Champion in a Title vs. Title match. And based on the rumors surrounding WWE's plans to drop Roddy's title altogether, I'm guessing Hayes gets the win and officially retires the belt soon after. That makes total sense to me - 205 Live barely has any cruiserweights anymore and the belt just doesn't have the weight-adjusted talent needed to keep the division afloat. While that prediction of mines is a bit depressing, I can at least take some solace in the fact that Roddy and Hayes are going to put on a barnburner once they finally lock horns. Io Shirai vs. Elektra Lopez was decent, all things considered. Io was her usual amazing self and Lopez impressed in her own right. Xyon Quinn distracted Miss Lopez with some mistletoe antics, which was enough to throw her off her game and succumb to a Diving Moonsault. Xyon got that girl sprung, boy!
Pete Dunne popped up for the main event to compete against Tony D'Angelo in a match that ended up being the best way to close the show. I never get tired of watching Dunne manipulate his opponent's fingers and limbs, which happened here. But Tony deserves some props as well - he kept up with Dunne and showed that he's capable of going long when the situation calls for it. At one point, Tony tried to clobber Dunne with a crowbar. But Dunne spotted him just in time to counter his errant swing into an armbar. It was pretty crazy to see Tony counter that with a nasty fishhook to break the hold and it was even crazier to watch Dunne respond with a finger-breaking counter that led right into the Bitter End. Tony was none too happy with this loss, however, as he smashed Dunne's hand after the match with that dammed crowbar. Man, Tony is gonna pay for that and I can't wait to see how!
Botches: I'm sure there were some people out there that appreciated the efforts of Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez during their Street Fight. I'm just not one of those people - I've long since stopped caring about both ladies, so anything they do these days (especially against each other) is completely inconsequential to me. Plus their hardcore scrap was pretty tame anyway, which is another reason why their Street Fighter fell so flat for me. Speaking of inconsequential, NXT Women's Champion Mandy Rose is going to put her title on the line during a Triple Threat Match against Raquel and Cora Jade at New Year's Evil. My crystal ball is telling me that that match is going to be extremely sub-par, so my hype level for that ladies' mashup is lower than low. Being forced to listen to Joe Gacy speak is akin to listening to "Friday" by Rebecca Black on repeat, so you can already guess how much pain I was in during his thinly veiled apology towards Brian Kendrick. Grayson Waller's promos are also shit, so I hated having to hear him talk during his segments with Indi Hartwell and AJ Styles. I'm sure AJ can carry the young upstart to a respectable match, though.
Grizzled Young Veterans vs. The Creed Brothers should have been a worthwhile tag team affair, but it was sadly bogged down by a whole lot of outside foolishness. The repeated camera cuts to Jacket Time on commentary, Josh Briggs & Brooks Jensen's presence, and the chaotic match-ending brawl between all four teams prevented me from getting a semi-decent match between two talented duos. For shame, NXT...for shame. I don't think I can take another hangout session between MSK and "Shaman" Riddle - the cringy dialogue, hacky acting, and lame attempts at humor are just a triple whammy of suck. What was the point of having Edris Enofé get a shock pin over Von Wagner in a minute flat? Why give Wagner a random loss like that just two weeks after his big triumph over the departing Kyle O'Reilly? They could have just had Wagner run through him in a minute instead and get to the same end result with the big guy continuing to ignore Robert Stone. Having Wagner take such a random L out of nowhere just didn't make a whole lot of sense to me...
High Spots: I always forget how good Orange Cassidy is once the bell rings. In between the ropes, he presents the perfect mix of comedy and legit competition. And on this extra festive edition of Dynamite, he reminded me of his lazy/energetic excellence once again during a hot opener against Adam Cole. Both men played up the laughs with the "hands in pockets" spot that I love so much, but they made sure to offer some exciting back and forth action from bell to bell. After Best Friends came out to even the odds with the rest of the SuperKliq, the match got even better as Cassidy and Cole broke out their best moves and produced some exciting near-falls. The big surprise I was expecting during this affair actually went down as Cole & Bobby Fish's old "undisputed" buddy Kyle O'Reilly made his AEW debut! His entrance through the crowd popped the hell outta me, plus his beatdown on Cassidy smartly played into Cole's triumphant victory. So now the wheels are obviously turning towards a future matchup between the Young Bucks and Cole's reunion with reDRagon. I'm gonna love the constant teasing between Cole's loyalties towards both teams before he finally makes the decision to cut ties with the SuperKliq and permanently run with his UE boys.
So in two weeks, Adam Page and Bryan Danielson are gonna step back into the ring for the rematch the world has been waiting for (shout out to Excalibur for that line). Danielson dug in deep with his vitriol towards the AEW World Champion, plus he made sure to put forth the idea of judges for their next encounter. Page responded with a fiery promo that further convinced me of his comfortability as the latest face of the company. Props to both men for sticking to the old way of doing things by "talking them into the building." After that heated war of words, The Pinnacle got to talking about their utter disdain for CM Punk. But more importantly, we got another tease of the growing dissension between MJF and his boy Wardlow. It seems like that prior champaign pick-up assignment has caused both men to continue breaking down as a unit, which I'm super interested in since it's all leading to Wardlow finally ditching MJF to become the mega babyface he's meant to be.
Thankfully, Wardlow got to blow off some steam by squashing another helpless victim. And as always, he got to lay in multiple powerbombs as the crowd egged him on. And once he got done claiming another victim, Shawn Spears came in to indulge in his steel chair swinging kink. That whole deal has been one of my favorite gimmicks in recent weeks, I must say! Dan Lambert has a lot of detractors, but that man sure has a way with words that keeps me glued to the TV. He made valid some points regarding The Men of the Year not getting a match on this episode and how Cody Rhodes is even more of a dick than he is! I think we might be due for a Triple Threat Match for the TNT Championship at Battle of the Belts next year. Shout out to Dr. Britt Baker D.M.D. for talking extra spicy about her next challenger Riho and dropping the most quoted line from A Christmas Movie - "You'll shoot your eye out, kid!" I can never get tired of watching the very best dentist in professional wrestling.
AEW really made ya boy tear up a bit during this episode 'cause they produced an amazing tribute to the true "King of Harts" Owen Hart. I'm a Bret "Hitman" Hart Stan for life, but I'm also a huge fan of his younger brother. It was so cool seeing current stars and the wrestlers that competed alongside him when he was alive speak about his influence on the business and the amazing family man he's always been mentioned as being. I gotta get me one of those new Owen shirts, for sure! I loved the NJPW footage they shared and I can't wait to see the tournament dedicated to finally him get underway. The latest bout in the TBS Women's Championship tournament may have been the weakest match in the tourney thus far, but it still delivered a decent clash between Nyla Rose and Ruby Soho. Once Ruby got freed of her damn jacket, she and Rose had themselves a nice little contest. The ending was especially memorable as Rubi laid in her nasty kick finisher via a wrist-assisted counter off the top rope to "The Beast." Now my money's on a Ruby/Jade Cargill grand final match to bring this quality tourney to a close.
Random note here but I was so happy to hear that Hikaru Shida and Serena Deeb aren't done beefing with each other. I say put 'em in a Last Woman Standing feud ender! Malakai Black has quickly morphed into one of my favorite members on the AEW roster - his spooky ambiance, cool-ass entrance, and MMA-inspired moveset combine to present him in the best way possible. Black had little difficulty breaking down one of Griff Garrison's legs with constant kicks and submissions for the win. Brian Pillman Jr. ran in to defend his boy after the match, but he paid for his heroics via a swift Black Mass. Black is on top of the wrestling world right now! We got the biggest "PAUSE!" worthy segment of the year when Matt Hardy promised that his boy Isiah Kassidy would "pound" Jungle Boy's ass on Rampage. Matt's a wild boy for makin' such an out-of-pocket statement like that!
The show came to a close via a super hype six-man tag that gifted me with the wonderful sight of Sting donning some sick CM Punk-inspired facepaint. Darby Allin and Punk also rocked some thematic war paint of their own to celebrate the occasion. Punk's throwback Sting tights also ruled! This one went 20-minutes and included some furious action between both trios and the smart decision to not let Punk & MJF touch each other not one time. There was a scary moment during this show closer that freaked me out, though - when Sting launch MJF outside the ring onto FTR, MJF landed right on his head and looked as if he had broken his neck. Luckily, the dude walked away unscathed. Punk's springboard botch was another moment that took a little bit away from this match, but I enjoyed the majority of it overall. The winning combo of a Go to Sleep, Scorpion Death Drop, and Coffin Drop sealed the win for the good guys as we went off the air.
Botches: None to speak of, honestly...
High Spots: Paul Heyman's stress levels are on a thousand, fam! You could see it all in his disheveled face during that interview he conducted with Kayla Braxton. Heyman is so great at using his words carefully and utilizing the most fitting facial/body motions to convey his current emotions. The man really has me believing that he's ready to call it quits and leave his days as a "special counsel" behind. I know he's not really going anywhere, but Heyman sure is doing an awesome job of convincing me that he just might be outta here! I can never get tired of watching that man finesse folks into believing every word that comes out of his mouth. He hails from my home state of New York after all, which is full of slick talkers. So that's mainly the reason why I love the guy.
The majority of this jolly episode of SmackDown focused on a pretty decent 12 Days of Christmas Gauntlet Match. Sheamus was the clear-cut MVP of the whole thing, but I also got a kick out of seeing Angel, Mansoor, Erik, Ivar, Cesaro, and Ricochet get to show off a bit. Sheamus and Cesaro put on their usual barroom brawl classic, plus Ricochet delivered an equally momentous showing against Sheamus. I was really hoping that Brother 'Chey would emerge as the new #1 Contender since we've never gotten a singles match between him and Shinsuke Nakamura in WWE. Sami Zayn pulled away with the big dub, so he's the one set to clash with Nakamura for his often-ignored IC Champiosnup real soon. That's...fine. Props to Zayn and Ricochet for a great final stretch during the gauntlet, though!
Call me crazy, but I'm always into those silly-ass holiday-themed matches. And on this show, I was treated to a Miracle on 34th Street Fight between Drew McIntyre, King Woods & Kofi Kingston and The Usos & Madcap Moss. Starting this main event off via regular tag rules was weird as hell, but it eventually devolved into the weapons-assisted madness it was clearly meant to be. Dudes got flung into Christmas trees, presents got involved, and even elongated candy canes came into the picture! Woods popped me pretty hard when he pulled off a Van Daminator out of nowhere, too. Drew's Claymore Kick to Madcap Moss (while the man was covered in Egg Nog, by the way!) was the best way to bring this cheery episode to a close. This was just some fun and harmless Xmas good tidings that I'm so used to getting from one of my favorite pastimes.
Botches: Welp, that whole Charlotte Flair vs. Toni Storm feud was a complete bust! I had such high hopes for it, but it was nothing more than a massive letdown in the buildup portion and especially in the quality of matches. The rematch for the Smackdown Women's Championship between both women just left me feeling indifferent - nothing about it stood out besides Charlotte's horrendous-looking Double Moonsualt spot that looked like it barely even touched Storm. Just leave that move to Andrade El Idolo, sis! Is it just me or have Charlotte's matches regressed a lot lately? I no longer look forward to watching her work and I damn sure got tired of her long, drawn-out promos a long time ago. Just give me Storm vs. Sasha Banks at this point! Now y'all know that match is gonna be watchable, at least.
High Spots: Isiah Kassidy is the sort of tag team talent you don't see a lot of on AEW's mainline shows lately, which is a shame really. 'Cause he and Mark Quen are one of those young duos that are sadly floundering under the leadership of Matt Hardy, which is something I hope gets remedied in the new year. Kassidy had himself a nice little sprint with Jungle Boy (who was taped up like a mummy, I might add!). The crowd seemed to be really into it (or was that just some overly loud piped-in cheers?) Both guys looked good and made sure to keep the pace moving swiftly thanks to their high-flying and impactful maneuvers. The Hardy Family Office threw hands on the outside with Christian Cage & Luchasaurus, which added a bit more heat to all the furious action happening inside the ring. Jungle Boy scored the win in a match that was as energetic as I originally expected.
MIRO! God's Forsaken Son came back to speak down on the man who gave him his gifts and took them away in equal order. He's set to make his comeback very soon and redeem some pour souls, which I'm highly anticipating. Hook shall be known from this point forward as the "Handsome Wrestling Machine." The young man showed up in his second match ever and still had the crowd in the palm of his hand. As his future opponent Tony Nese sat at ringside and looked on, Hook shook off all the big damage done to him by Bear Bronson and added another L to the big guy's record. The winning combination of a sick clothesline, jaw-dropping suplexes, nasty elbow shots to the head, and a lethal chokehold got Hook another win on his AEW record. Hook just keeps on impressing the wrestling world at large, doesn't he?
The ladies got to join in on all the Holiday Bash action, too! Kris Statlander and Leyla Hirsch got into it via a hard-fought contest. Leyla's always captured my attention as a little ball of fire that can easily suplex the much larger opposition she regularly runs into, plus Kris held up her end of the bargain as usual. After Kris earned a submission victory, she tried to offer her respects to Leyla with a good old-fashioned handshake. But Leyla chose to wave it off instead, which was a genuine surprise. A heelish Leyla might just be what the doctor ordered as we move into the new year.
We got a big fight feel as David Crockett, who's Jim Crockett Jr.'s brother, watched on as TNT Champion Sammy Guevara battled the heavy crowd favorite (I'm being sarcastic if you couldn't tell...) Cody Rhodes. In the clear match of the night, both men went above and beyond their very first meeting on the very first episode of Dynamite. Sammy got extra cocky here as he used some of Cody's own moves against him, but Cody made sure to respond in kind with some smart arm work on the young Inner Circle member. The crowd couldn't help but shit all over everything Cody did and cheer out of their minds every time Sammy got the upper hand, of course. Cody went as far as powerbombing Sammy into a crowd of random guys (who were clearly local wrestlers) and spiking him with a sick Cross Rhodes. Sammy looked like he was on the verge of another successful title defense, but one mistimed 630 Senton cost him and got him fed to three consecutive Cross Rhodes. So the most hated man in the company is TNT Champion once again. I hope he eventually grows full heel now that he's holding onto the belt once again. A smarmy, oblivious Bo Dallas-like character change is what I need from Cody in 2022!
Botches: None to speak of, honestly...
Random Rumblings Around the Squared Circle
High Spots: Even though the Ring of Honor I know and love is no more following Final Battle, the ongoing legacy of the indy league's championships is still intact. Both the current reigning and defending ROH World Champions have their work cut out for them now that they're booked for two major title defenses in two different companies. Jonathan Gresham, who's the holder of the old school ROH World title, is going to put his belt on the line against Chris Sabin at Impact Wrestling's Hard to Kill, plus the man that has the latest version of the belt (Bandido) within his grasp will defend the belt against AEW's Baron Black. I'm guessing a Title vs. Title unification match is on the cards once ROH comes back in April for its WrestleMania weekend comeback show. Sure would be nice if either man showed up in AEW to defend their titles, too...
Bruh, look at the full PWG Battle of Los Angeles (BOLA) tournament lineup:
Jonah Rock, Alex Shelley, Kevin Blackwood, Lio Rush, Black, Taurus, Daniel Garcia, Jack Cartwheel, Bandido, Lee Moriarty, Davey Richards, Aramis, Jonathan Gresham, JD Drake, Rey Horus, Phillip Five Skulls, and Buddy Matthews!
Like, how STACKED is that lineup? You got former WWE Superstars, AEW talent, up & coming rookies, and noted indy wrestling stalwarts. I hope and pray that the mysterious Phillip Five Skulls is revealed to be the returning Chris Hero! It'd be so dope to see a viral tweet about PWG lead to the comeback trail for one of the most underappreciated wrestlers in the business. Next year's BOLA is going to be 'effing HEAT!
Botches: None to speak of, honestly...