TNA Impact Wrestling Review 7/25/13 & WWE Smackdown Review 7/26/13

In ring segment with The Main Event Mafia, Chris Sabin, interrupted by Bully Ray: Good mic work from Sabin but besides that none of this hooked me into wanting to watch the show. The Main Event Mafia continue to be dead air to me and Bully Ray trying to sue TNA because he got screwed out of the World Title is eye-rolling. The lawyer was pretty over the top ridiculous though so I found that entertaining.

Manik won the TNA X-Division Championship in an Ultimate X Match against Sonjay Dutt and Greg Marasciulo: Last week I was disappointed in the Ultimate X qualifying matches. This week, the winners of those matches put on one of the best opening I wish that we had seen more spots on the X itself, but the Jig ‘N Tonic on the ramp and Sonjay/Marasciulo brawling on top of the structure provided some memorable moments. I really enjoyed the finish sequence, and my palms were sweating with nervousness due to the dangerousness of the situation. Whenever a title becomes vacated, it’s tough to restore credibility to the belt right away. However, by having these three guys tear the house down, TNA pumped fresh air into the lungs of the X-Division immediately.

Mr. Anderson beat Hernandez by pinfall to pick up 7 points in the BFG Series: These two surprised me quite a bit. The match itself was solid, but the clever finish took it to the next level.

Mickie James beat Gail Kim to retain the TNA Knockouts Championship: It’s often difficult to gets fans into a match between two heels. However, these two ladies brought it. The action was really fast early on, and they hooked the audience with their skill rather having one of them do the obnoxious “babyface for one match” thing that tends to happen in these situations. Gail Kim continues to show that she is one of the best female workers on the planet, and Mickie James, who won the title seemingly out of nowhere, has done an unbelievable job as champion. Like I said earlier- Gail Kim is one of the best female workers on the planet. By pairing her off with ODB, TNA seems to be weakening her stock in favor of putting Velvet Sky back into a title feud. Sky doesn’t have the crowd behind her the way that she once did, and is nowhere near the caliber of worker that Kim is. It’s irritating to watch on as Sky takes over the spotlight while Kim is shoved into the background again despite clicking on all cylinders.

Christopher Daniels beat Samoa Joe by pinfall to pick up 7 points in the BFG Series: I thought these two put on a solid match, but I thought the finish was a little bit goofy. The fake interference felt hokey and unnecessary. It didn’t come across well, and it took the wind out of my sails.

AJ Styles beat Jeff Hardy by submission to pick up 10 points in the BFG Series: I may be in the minority heel, but I really liked AJ’s ring work here, and felt that it helped take this match to the next level. When Jeff Hardy is forced to sell and his high spots come in moments of desperation, his matches come across better. AJ working a slower, more physical style served in guiding Hardy. I liked the Pele Kick being reintroduced, and the roll into the Calf Killer was a great finish. Though I have taken issue with some of his promos, I have enjoyed AJ’s ring work since his turn, specifically the killer instinct that he has shown.

Sabin/Bully in a Cage: While I didn’t enjoy their initial match as much as a lot of other people, I think that the cage format will be great for these two. It will provide Sabin with an environment to innovate, and it will also allow for Bully to utilize his physical offense. The dynamic should be interesting as well, with Sabin coming in as the champion, and Bully knowing that Sabin can beat him.

I thought that this was one of the best episodes of Impact Wrestling in some time. The Ultimate X match was crazy, Anderson and Hernandez surprised me, the women put on a great match, AJ Styles continued to grow into his character, and the announcement of the Sabin/Bully cage match is intriguing. Although I am not a fan of Velvet Sky moving into the Knockouts title picture, Mickie James has been a miracle worker lately and could end up making their rivalry compelling. The BFG Series is shaping up interestingly, and although I was opposed to AJ Styles winning earlier due to his character, if they keep him off the microphone and let his ring work do the talking, I would honestly be fine with him winning the whole thing. Go out of your way to see this week’s show. 8.5/10.

Randy Orton d. Damian Sandow: This didn’t manage to be interesting for its whole run. It started off rather slowly and meandered for quite a while, but it did kick up a notch down the finishing stretch and Cody Rhodes’ appearance helped kick off an entertaining show long storyline. In an addendum to my little rant about squash matches on Raw, with a little build-up this could have made for a fine PPV match, but gets thrown away for free on Smackdown. It is almost like they aren’t listening to me. Hmph.

This Punk is a Pipe-Bomb: When CM Punk gets a microphone and talks about his hatred for Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman, it invariably ends up being wonderful. Thus, this promo was wonderful, and enhanced even further. He didn’t say anything particularly new and revelatory, but it was effective nonetheless. The GTS to Fandango t the end was a tad unnecessary, but the hapless dancer’s selling of it was pretty neat, so thumbs up there.

Mark Henry & The Usos d. Wade Barrett & The Prime Time Players: The match wasn’t up to much and it was inconsiderate of WWE to sacrifice my compatriot Wade Barrett on my birthday, but it wasn’t offensive or anything and helped strengthen the status of Mark Henry and the Usos.

Alberto Del Rio d. Rob Van Dam: Well this was disappointing. I would have like a fun little sprint to set up a lengthier, meatier Summerslam match between the two, but instead we got Alberto Del Rio running away for a bit before landing a superkick and winning. Who gets over in this situation? Rob Van Dam’s been on surprisingly excellent form since his WWE return, and this was just a waste of him. What a letdown.

The State of the Mind Address: The title of this segment was creative and AJ Lee’s promo to start was really good, but as soon as Dolph Ziggler came out this descended into a painfully unfunny segment in which BITCHES BE CRAZY, which is a sure-fire way of annoying me. Ziggler had a few semi-amusing lines, but the absolute silence of the crowd, even for the conclusion in which Ziggler and Kaitlyn wiped out Langston and AJ, tells you all you need to know.

The Wyatt Family d. Tons of Funk: Bad news everyone: The Wyatt’s are just another group. Well, they still have a cool entrance and the promos have bigger words, but there’s nothing truly special about them or their targeting of Kane. Still, always nice to see Brodie Lee.

Christian d. Jack Swagger: These two have good chemistry dating back to their ECW days together. Hey, remember WWECW from around October/November 2008 onwards? It was brilliant, wasn’t it? You had new stars and consistently excellent main events and it all felt so fresh and fun. I miss it quite a lot. Anyway, this match was fine, probably around ** 3/4,.

The Long Awaited Return of the Gulf of Mexico: The Gulf of Mexico came back last night to team with Cody Rhodes and humiliate Damian Sandow, adding the Intellectual Savior of the Masses’ name to its illustrious list of victims which also includes Rey Mysterio and Chavo Guerrero. I like show-long storylines a lot, they always make whatever broadcast they consume standout and usually prove to be entertaining. While Rhodes continues to act like the second most morally bankrupt good guy in WWE, he remains worth watching with his charm and physical charisma, and Sandow is just great.

I actually liked this Smackdown, because things actually happened on it. Sure, many of them were negative things, but it’s so refreshing to watch a blue-branded show, which doesn’t exist in a dream-like world where nothing that happens within affects the rest of the universe. It felt energetic and purposeful and the Rhodes-Sandow thing was pretty fun, so mild thumbs up! 6.5/10

Yes or No 07/25/13: D-Bry, More

Daniel Bryan has no chance of beating John Cena at SummerSlam? NO: It’s a long shot, but Bryan has been on quite a hot streak lately, and has the fan base. Granted, booking 101 dictates that the hotter the challenger, the less likely they are to win the first match. Of course, that’s been the rule for so long that fans now expect the hot challenger to lose, so the swerve is actually having them win (there were no swerves in HHH’s 2002 title run). Having said that, “booking” is completely up to Vince McMahon – we can guess, and discuss history, but at the end of the day, our speculation means jack. There’s 3.5 weeks left til SummerSlam – anything can happen. Cena could come out next week and face 10 men in a gauntlet match, making him the strong one who will lose. Or Bryan could be in the dog house for his potential fiance showing a little too much skin on Raw. Or Cena could be in the doghouse for Vince thinking it was his Bella that showed too much skin on Raw. I don’t think Bryan will beat Cena, but I’m not betting against it.

Did I enjoy Chris Jericho’s 2013 run? YES: On one hand, Jericho’s one of my favorites, so I’m always excited when he comes back. On the other hand, his losses to Ryback and Fandango were meaningless – they didn’t hurt him, but they didn’t help his opponents either. I did enjoy the build-up to his match with Punk (and the match itself), and his match with RVD on Raw, but that was it. I’d like to see more stuff like that from his returns in the future, otherwise they’ll become meaningless.

Bully Ray should still be TNA World Champion? NO: I follow TNA – TV, PPVs, house shows. I do not think they are perfect. Quite often, I find myself shaking my head at the things they do, but I do like them. Going into DX, I wanted Sabin to win, but figured there was no chance in hell it would happen. And then Sabin won! TNA finally rewarded me as a fan for putting up with all the stupid things they do! I’m sure Bully will win it back soon enough, and knowing TNA, this little title run of Sabin’s will be forgotten, but for now, I’m glad TNA surprised me and put the strap on Sabin. Having said that, the timing of it could’ve been better – Bully’s leading a bunch of losers against the Mafia, and he’s the top guy right now, and was really benefiting from having the strap, so losing it right now might not have been the best call, but I don’t think it’s going to derail anything TNA has planned for him.

Chris Sabin will have a successful TNA World Title reign? NO: I really hope I’m wrong. I hope Sabin has a good title run, and this ends up being the first of many for him. But TNA’s track-record isn’t all that great with new champs. Bully is an exception, as his first title run has been really good, this loss included. AJ Styles, James Storm, Samoa Joe, Ken Anderson, and RVD were 5 guys whose title reigns I was looking forward to, and none of them had what I would consider “successful” title reigns. I attribute this more to TNA than the wrestlers themselves.

 

Bill Belichick, Patriots Prove New England Is Uniquely Equipped for Aaron Hernandez

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Every closet has a skeleton, every herd a black sheep. No matter how sunny their public picture, every business, organization, family and person has a darkness within them. Whether it’s a secret shame, a terrible mistake or a great injustice, everyone does our best to keep going, because life does not stop for us.

The pending murder charge against tight end Aaron Hernandez is testing Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots’ coping ability to the limit.

In the first press conference of training camp, Belichick was forced to explain how he hired an accused murderer—soon, according to the Boston Globe, to be an accused mass murderer.

According to NFL.com‘s Gregg Rosenthal, Belichick was humble, and sensitive to the Lloyd family’s loss of the Hernandez’s victim, Odin. He also, as head coach, took responsibility for drafting Hernandez, who struggled with discipline issues in college.

“I’m primarily responsible for the people that we bring into the football operation,” Belichick told assembled media. Belichick did the right thing by taking the blame for the damage Hernandez has done to the Patriots organization on himself.

This is why Belichick and the Patriots organization are uniquely equipped to handle this situation.

On many other teams, power and responsibility flow in many weird and byzantine ways. Albert Breer of NFL.com penned an incredible article spelling out how all 32 teams handle decision-making. His summary of the way the Patriots call shots?

Bill Belichick is truly omnipotent.”

 Perhaps Omnipotent, Not Omniscient

Of course, Belichick can’t truly take responsibility for what Hernandez has done.

“A young man lost his life,” Belichick said, “and his family’s suffered a tragic loss and there’s no way to understate that.” There is no blood on Belichick’s hands; he and the Patriots (just like any employer) had no way to divine what Hernandez was allegedly capable of, nor would they have had any real way of intervening.

Many have tried to connect the brutal, unthinkable crimes Hernandez has been accused of to his college misdeeds; this is silly. Many college football players—and regular college students—went through similar discipline issues.

Many have tried to connect the PR damage Hernandez has done to Belichick’s drafting him; this is wrong.

Much as the infamous BTK serial killer worked for a home security firm with strict hiring practices, there’s no way Belichick or the Patriots could possibly have foretold Hernandez would also be suspected of multiple murders.

NFL prospects might be the most heavily screened of all job candidates in America. Besides every minute of their “unpaid internship” (college football) being filmed, potential draftees are weighed, measured, given a full medical exam, worked out on every aspect of their job skills, sometimes multiple times, do dozens of in-person interviews and even travel to team facilities for private, individual follow-up workouts.

Beyond that, every aspect of the personal life is scrutinized, with NFL teams commonly hiring private investigators to tail candidates and report back to the club. Even with all this, Hernandez’s “character issues” were no greater than many of the candidates drafted by many other teams that season.

In fact, according to Alex Marvez of FOXSports.com, Hernandez got a perfect score on a pre-draft pysch exam. These kinds of screens are designed to uncover the deep-seated issues that lead to dangerous or criminal behavior, and Hernandez passed with flying colors.

An anonymous NFL executive told Marvez, “Other guys have gotten written up with much worse scores but not gotten into trouble.”

The Patriot Way

Nevertheless, since Bill Belichick has unparalleled power and autonomy within the New England Patriots organization, when he faces the nation and takes responsibility, it means something. When he, according to Rosenthal, vowed to look at how they evaluate players and prospects going forward, it means something.

Even if Belichick reviews his own evaluation process and concluded—with some justification—that there’s no conceivable practice that could have forseen or prevented this tragedy, it still means something when the unilateral decision-maker takes a hard look at the way he does things.

Belichick has often been accused of being aloof, lofty and arrogant. He often deals with the media by not dealing with them at all. Belichick is famous for entirely dismissing some questions and giving terse, one-word answers to others.

When it comes to the rest of the organization and the media, they always handle themselves as if Belichick is standing over their shoulder. Tom Brady is a consummate pro; the only cracks in his smooth facade have shown when someone else speaks for him, like his wife Gisele Bundchen:

Even when Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports reported Brady was “pierced in the heart” by news the organization had let go of his friend and top target, Wes Welker, those feelings came from a confidant of Brady’s, never Brady himself.

That’s why Belichick had the power to deal with this unthinkable situation so gracefully, and did: No one in the organization will speak out of turn, and when the organization’s only words on the matter come from a humble, sensitive, gracious and contrite Bill Belichick, it means something.

“I’ve been advised to address the subject once,” Belichick said, “and it’s time for the New England Patriots to move forward.”

Coming from anyone else in the NFL, that might sound like a PR flack’s wishful thinking. Coming from Belichick, it sounds like the end of a painful chapter in the history of an organization that’s about winning, and nothing else.

TNA Impact Wrestling Review 7/18/13 & WWE Smackdown Review 7/19/13

TNA Impact Wrestling 7/18/13

Opening Segment: This plays off the previous section quite a bit, but essentially the opening segment focused on everything other than Chris Sabin.

Austin Aries beat Bobby Roode by pinfall in a BFG Series Match: I thought that pairing these two off to start the show was a cool tip of the hat to last year’s event. Additionally, the in-ring action was quite good. Giving Aries the win here was a nice rub for the X-Division, showing what these guys could potentially move on to. Additionally, it set up the post-match angle where Bobby Roode snapped. I enjoyed that immensely, as Roode had felt stale prior to his losing streak. He’s a solid in-ring worker who carries himself well, so breathing some fresh air into his lungs is a smart move by TNA (***1/2).

Sonjay Dutt beat Petey Williams and Homicide: The X-Division stars of the past actually put on the best of the X-Division matches. I liked Tenay noting that Dutt has never won the title, which puts a chip on his shoulder, gives motivation to his character, and gives the fans a reason to get behind him. Dutt and Williams looked great in particular, and Dutt’s moonsault double stomp is a sick finisher. This provided some good nostalgia from guys who are still capable (**).

Manix beat Kenny King and Chavo Guerrero: For whatever reason, this match did not click. Manix seemed a bit sloppy and Chavo was a step slow. The crowd didn’t care, which wasn’t helped by the fact that out of the three, Kenny King is the only guy who carries himself well. The Manix character doesn’t make any sense and hasn’t really been explained, so I don’t feel any connection to him. I mean, we know who the guy is under the costume, and when he wears it, he turns into another person. Doesn’t that make him a phony? Why should we cheer a fake person? (*1/2)

The MEM/Aces and Eights Stuff: This feud still hasn’t really grabbed my imagination. Eventually there needs to be more intrigue added to this rivalry in one way or another. Additionally, the MEM aren’t cutting the mustard for me as faces. They seem really self-important, and I still don’t know why these guys are friends with Sting now simply because he gave a name to their friendship.

Greg Marasciulo beat Rubix and Rockstar Spud: : A solid match and Marasciulo looked great but oh man the crowd totally died during the contest. It’s going to be an interesting Ultimate X match next week and I wouldn’t mind either of the three men involved get the win (especially Dutt) (*).

In ring segment with Mickie James, interrupted by Gail Kim: Very good segment, with James doing more excellent work under her heel persona. Loving it. The brawl was excellent as well and it was a good way to build next week’s match. Hopefully the match itself will be just as good.

Chris Sabin beat Bully Ray to win the TNA World Heavyweight Championship:  Alright, commenters, hear me out. I thought this match was fine. The story, though it was simple, was pretty good. However, I felt that much of the match was overshadowed by the Aces and Eights and Main-Event Mafia interactions. Additionally, let’s look at how Sabin did during this match- he received a ton of punishment, hit a few moves, and then used a foreign object to win. While he does get to carry around a prop now, this match didn’t really launch him to the next level. Some people said that this may lead to a heel turn, but I have no interest in seeing that, as heels who aren’t in Aces and Eights either flounder or are put in a tag team. Plus, I don’t think this was a good payoff to Bully’s title run. This should have been a big moment, and if it had been saved for Bound for Glory, it would have felt like it mattered more. What is Chris Sabin going to do as champion? TNA’s options are simple. They could A) Have him lose the belt back to Bully Ray (which would cheapen the title, and make the moment when Bully loses the belt again significantly less remarkable), B) Let a guy with below-average microphone skills and ring presence represent their company as their top guy, or C) Throw him in the background and diminish the value of the title while the MEM/Aces and Eights rivalry takes center stage. When you evaluate the alternatives, it is tough to say that this was the right choice. The argument that “he deserves it” is absurd. This is a business,  and unless Chris Sabin is going to drive business, he shouldn’t be champion (**1/4).

This weeks Impact seemed to fly by, which is welcome. It’s nice to be able to sit down, watch a wrestling show, and at the end think, “Wow, it’s over already?” TNA paced this show well, and there was nothing that dragged on. Although I have my complaints, none of them were too severe or off-putting to make me want to switch the channel. It was nice to see the X-Division still get it’s yearly showcase despite the change in the pay-per-view format, and I’m already looking forward to next year (7/10).

WWE Smackdown 7/19/13

Acts of General Managers: People who didn’t watch Smackdown! Let us play a game. In the opening segment of this week’s Smackdown, Mr. McMahon asked the three would-be General Managers of Smackdown, Brad Maddox, Booker T and Teddy Long, to make a match for the evening. One went with Chris Jericho vs. Curtis Axel, another Randy Orton vs. Alberto Del Rio, and the third confirmed the in ring return of Rob Van Dam. Now, here comes the ‘game’ bit; can you guess which general manager picked which match? I’m afraid it’s a terrible game, owing to its impossibility; there is literally nothing unique about the way an authority figure runs Smackdown, the same matches are just made by a different person, and as such there’s just no reason to care about these things. I quite liked the reveal of Vickie Guerrero at the end, it was a nice way to tie up the loose-end from the even worse job evaluation on Raw, but other than that there was no value in this segment.

Dolph Ziggler d. Jack Swagger: My, how times have changed, part two. Four years ago, Jack Swagger was a dominant, swaggering (pun so very intended) champion of ECW who looked on the road to stardom, while Ziggler… I don’t really remember, he introduced himself to people backstage a lot and he beat the Great Khali via count-out I think. Now, Swagger is the Wade Barrett to Ziggler’s Daniel Bryan. I’m not convinced with cheery good-guy Ziggler though so this stays in its natural habitat of purgatory (*1/4).

The Usos N/C The Shield: Pier-six brawls are always fun! But not necessarily substantial enough to make the ‘right’ section! E.g. this one. Could be a fun Summerslam six-man though.

Daniel Bryan d. Wade Barrett: My, how times have changed, part one. In the Summer of 2010 Wade Barrett was the break-out star of NXT, destined for oodles of world title reigns, while Daniel Bryan alternated between losing, getting fired, and feuding with Michael Cole. Three years on, Bryan is steam-rolling Barrett in mere minutes on his way to a WWE Championship match against the biggest star in the business that he may well win, he’s so over it makes my heart sing, and it genuinely looks like he’s going to be a permanent fixture in the main event. The match wasn’t up to much but as a metaphor for the ascension of Daniel Bryan this was so so right (N/A).

Not Miserable: MizTV with Paul Heyman! Again! It feels like Heyman has been on Miz TV every week since I started doing this column. Anyway, it’s a MIZTV (pronounced like ‘mystery) why the Miz has his own talk show when invariably he’s more annoying than a thousand Jeremy Kyles. Thankfully today he was perhaps only as annoying as 673 Jeremy Kyles, and Paul Heyman is so good right now he can make up for that, so this was a surprisingly entertaining, accomplished segment that gave a little extra depth to the Punk-Heyman rivalry.

Curtis Axel d. Chris Jericho: After his thrilling battle with Rob Van Dam on Raw, Chris Jericho waved goodbye to WWE for 2013 (probably) with another very enjoyable bout, if not on the level of Monday night. Curtis Axel confuses me because he’s always impressive in the ring and Paul Heyman is an effective mouthpiece for him but I just have so little interest in his life, outside of when he’s having these good, lengthy TV matches. There were lots of cool reversals and near falls and everything was very smoothly executed. While I think few would doubt that this has been, perhaps by design, Jericho’s least inspiring run in WWE so far, weeks like this are a welcome reminder that he is still an incredibly talented man, and I’m already looking forward to his predicted return (***).

The Not Quite Midnight Rhodes Scholars Fight: I really like both of these guys and the build up to Rhodes’ turn has been terrific, but the actual act itself has fallen just a tiny bit flat for me, and it hasn’t helped that Sandow has been entirely reasonable throughout all of this. Like, seriously, has there ever been a supposed heel that’s ever made such a genuinely lovely gesture as Sandow did this week, forgiving Rhodes for attacking him on Monday? Even if you think the assault was justified it was a pretty cool thing to do. Anyway, hopefully this feud picks up on the road to Summerslam because both guys are great characters with great facial hair and deserve a great rivalry.

Rob Van Dam d. Darren Young: While it isn’t always that fun to watch, I do like, in concept at least, Smackdown’s focus on old fashioned squash matches. It’s a nice, something very useful, throwback. Van Dam hit the ring, got all his cool moves in, and leaves it more established than he was when he entered. Again, having three of them on one show is better on paper han in practice, and RVD can probably stop with the random matches and start with the feuding now (putting him against the Shield might be fun,) but this was well conceived and very solid (DUD).

Randy Orton d. Alberto Del Rio: This was a decent main event, but it is nothing you haven’t seen 100 times before. It was a standard match with some exciting near falls towards the end but honestly I just don’t remember much about this considering I watched it only about half an hour ago. I’d quite like Smackdown to shake up its main events with a crazy brawl or something once in a while (**3/4).

My first watching this show was thwarted when I fell fast asleep. But it didn’t inspire any bad-wrestling related nightmares! And that sums up the show quite nicely I think. Jericho-Axel was good, there were a smattering of fun squashes, nothing ridiculous, but I don’t think anyone really looks forward to Smackdown, and bland, lifeless episodes like this are the reason (6.5/10).

Yes or No 07/18/13: Orton, Rhodes, Destination X, More

Randy Orton was the correct choice to win the Money in the Bank All-Stars match? YES: At first blush you’d think no. But he’s really the only option. RVD getting money in the bank as he returns for a part time gig makes no sense. CM Punk doesn’t need MITB as he is about to enter a program with Lesnar and is a legit title contender any time he wants to be. Daniel Bryan was who everyone wanted, but now that I think about it I think that D-Bry would be best benefitted from a clean shot and a clean win, without briefcase shenanigans. That leaves Sheamus, Christian, and Orton as the only possible options. All three of which would be a significant let down. Christian seems out of place going for the WWE title, and Sheamus. Well I just don’t like him. Not my thing fella. That’s leaves Orton, a surprise pick with some inherent credibility when it comes to the WWE title. Best case scenario this is the catalyst for a heel turn as he stalks champions. Worst case scenario we’ve at least reminded the fans that Orton is still somewhat of a main eventer. So in hindsight, I guess he was the right choice, even if you, me, and the Philly fans weren’t too pleased at the time.

CM Punk is a believable threat to Brock Lesnar? NO: That’s not to be taken as a knock on Punk because I’ve really come around on him and finally see what all the fuss was about when he was on the indy scene. But the fact of the matter is that no matter how many Gracie hoodies he sports, dude appears significantly outgunned. And that makes for a good story. There have been plenty of great storylines where the babyface appears completely outmatched and overcomes the odds. Maybe Punk has finally bitten off more than he can chew. He’s the underdog and doesn’t have Heyman in his corner to help him overcome the odds anymore. It’s a good story and with the promos cut Monday I wouldn’t be surprised if he won the match. But to imagine someone the size of Punk defeating someone the size of Lesnar requires some suspension of disbelief. Which by definition makes him a non-believable threat. It’s cool I don’t mind suspending disbelief in my wrestling. Just keep Brock off the mic and let Heyman and Punk do their thing and it will work I promise you.

Cody Rhodes will be successful as a babyface? NO: I like Cody, I think he’s got natural charisma, a ton of athletic ability, works a good match and is starting with a hot storyline. There’s only one key element missing to ensure his success and unfortunately it’s the most important one. Cody is now dependent on the writers to get him over. Nothing in recent history shows me that the WWE writing staff has a clue on how to get an upper midcard babyface over. Hell they somehow have screwed up Kofi Kingston. If I were a betting man I’d say they somehow screw this one up as well. Sandow appears to be the one of the team that they are pushing to the moon and will benefit from the fact that the WWE writes heels so much better than babyfaces. I hope I’m wrong and they both get over, but history just isn’t on the side of the son of a son of a plumber.

Destination X should still be a PPV event instead of an Impact episode? NO: One of the only truly smart moves TNA has made in recent memory was cutting down to four live ppvs a year. The PPV market is overly saturated right now and with WWE and UFC having shows every month there’s not much money left in people’s budgets for a TNA show. Even if you were opposed to the WWE and UFC there’s always a handful of ippvs that you could watch (or in the case of ROH pay for and not watch). So TNA did the smart move and backed off their number. This has two positive effects. One, it gives an air of importance to the pay per views that do remain, something which they will hopefully be able to capitalize on. While you can skip a monthly show, with correct booking these four events may well become must see tv for their audience. Second, it allows you to build more important episodes of impact. Having a special episode such as a Destination X episode will bring in new viewers and if you put on a good show they may just come back next week. All in all a smart move by TNA Panda Impact Wrestling.

 

Yes or No 07/11/13: MITB, ROH Tournament, More

Daniel Bryan will win the All-Star Money in the Bank Ladder Match? YES: I’d like to say so, because the dude has a wave of momentum going for him that seems to just be getting bigger. He’s bested Orton and Sheamus in 2 out of 3 weeks, as well as closed the go home show for Money in the Bank. I’d say he has pretty good chances, though the wrestling rule of opposites (where the go who is on top at the close of the show before the pay-per-view always loses) dictates that he wont be able to win the match, I believe that he will, and it makes me want to watch the PPV to find out.

Mark Henry should be WWE Champion after Money in the Bank? YES: I have never liked the periods of time in which John Cena is WWE Champion, I don’t hate the guy like a lot of people do but he is one of the most boring champions the WWE have ever had. Mark Henry on the other hand is one of the most entertaining members of the roster, and has been for a couple of years now. Henry has done everything the WWE has asked of him for over 10 years, and since he dropped 100 pounds a few years ago he has been constantly improving in the ring and on the microphone. I don’t normally agree with giving people titles as some sort of gift for long service, but Mark Henry has done everything right and improved on every aspect that needed work. I can’t think of one reason why he shouldn’t be WWE Champion, not that it is going to happen though.

The Wyatt Family made an impressive debut on Raw? 50/50: I loved their whole look, and I thought they were really creepy. But I just don’t think that gang attacking Kane counts as an impressive debut. Maybe it is the cynic in me but when a new guy debuts I don’t care that much because I know he could be nothing in just a few short months, it is what he does after that debut that is judged impressive or not. But like I said I loved the look and the whole feel of the Wyatt Family, it is a pretty unique character for wrestling. Although I can’t help but think about Deliverance when I see the Wyatt Family, which makes me quite uneasy, which is brilliant for an evil character. It was an ok debut, but the same could have been accomplished with anyone.

Brad Maddox will be a good Raw General Manager? NOPE: I’m starting to wonder if Brad Maddox is like a secret McMahon or something. The guy doesn’t have much skill in any field yet the WWE are giving him airtime. He’s an attractive guy and that’s never something to complain about seeing but he just doesn’t seem to want to go away, and now he’s the GM of Monday Night Raw! I hate to be the smarky internet guy, but his success is completely down to whether or not the WWE want him to be a success. I think the WWE creative believe that he is just one of those characters you love to hate, and therefore he will probably be one of the most annoying GM’s Raw has had this side of Mike Adamle. Although Adamle was pretty brilliant trying to be the Ronald Reagan of Raw, that was a stroke of genius. I don’t have the same hopes for Maddox.

The Gut Check Challenge is still viable even though most of the people involved in it are gone from TNA? NO: I don’t actually agree with putting someone on TV without a character and storyline for them, and only one person can really get any kind of rub from the Gut Check Challenge. The rest of the guys are out there without any kind of direction and any screw ups here will make them look bad when they debut again in a couple of months or so. This kind of discussion should be done by TNA developmental and not by the TNA fans. Look at whom WWE chose in their Tough Enough contest! The audience clearly doesn’t know who will make a good superstar but its ok because TNA and WWE both pay guys thousands of dollars to do that job. Audience participation is good to a certain level but a guy can be all kinds of likeable and still suck in the ring.

Chris Sabin will defeat Bully Ray for the TNA Championship? YES: I would love for this to happen, I’ve been a pretty big fan of Chris Sabin’s work since about 2006, and I’d love to see his return from injury culminate in a championship win, but honestly, I don’t see it working out like that. Bully Ray seems like a guy that will be champion until at least Bound for Glory, and Sabin seems like another contender for his title. Though I will give lots of credit, by putting Sabin over Aries clean in a match, as well as giving him the back against Aces and Eights, he has a lot better shot now than he would have last week, I just don’t see it being a big enough one to dethrone the Bully.

Low Ki will return to a major wrestling promotion within a year? YES: I say this based on the question of what counts as a major promotion? Does Ring of Honor count? They do have a TV deal (though it’s syndicated), and I could see him showing up for maybe a one-off match, or maybe working with them in some capacity. Last I checked, he was working with Dragon Gate USA and Evolve, so I don’t see him going to TNA or WWE for at least a year. WWE wouldn’t know what to do with him, based on what they did last time, when they even gave him the win on NXT 2: Electric Boogaloo. TNA, I don’t think he’d go back to right now, and I don’t think he needs TNA. But Ring of Honor I could see (if they count, do they count, or are they still just a big Indy?) over the other two, and that is how this get the FACT!

Holding a tournament is a good way for ROH to crown a new champion? NO: I’m quite a fan of tournaments but I think ROH should be able to find something more entertaining to crown a new champion. For a company that is still trying to even break into basic cable they really need to keep an eye on what is more entertaining for the audience, and tournaments are very rarely ever the answer. Battle Royal’s seem to be the go to match for crowning new champions, and that may be a tad overdone but it has the excitement factor that those tournaments loose pretty soon into the night.

TNA Impact Wrestling Review 7/4/13 & WWE Smackdown Review 7/5/13

Austin Aries joins us to start, and you can bet your sweet ass that he’s cashing in his newly won X title in two weeks.  He brings out Hogan to hand over the belt, but Hulk accuses him of the worst crime in wrestling:  GIMMICK INFRINGEMENT.  So as punishment, tonight Aries defends against Chris Sabin and Suicide, who is now called Manic.  That’s pretty unfair to Aries, especially when the title match last week was specifically advertised as being the match to determine who got the World title shot.

AJ Styles beat Frankie Kazarian by Submission in a Bound for Glory Series Match: Though this match was short, I found it to be entertaining the entire time. The Sigfried and Roy outfits for Daniels and Kazarian were quite amusing as well. I liked that AJ went over with the Calf Killer, as it not only establishes the move as a legitimate finisher, but also makes it appear as if AJ wants to get as many points as possible (**1/4).

Mickie James’ Promo: Mickie James cut another great promo on Thursday, this time focusing on the upcoming number one contender’s ladder match between Gail Kim and Taryn Terrell. This belongs in the right for two reasons. First off, it continued to establish Mickie as a cocky, self-admiring heel. Secondly, by having the champion thoroughly invested in the number one contender’s match, the match seems more important. Promotions tend to throw out number one contender’s matches with frequency. By having the champion devote her promo time to it, this match becomes more than just a match with a random stipulation to determine who gets a title shot.

Hernandez beat Jay Bradley by Pinfall in a Bound for Glory Series Match: I’m a fan of Chavo, but I like that they are at least building up something interesting that involves Hernandez. He seems like he’s been in a rut ever since he teamed with Chavo, and a potential split or heel turn could breathe new life into his character. As far as the match goes, it was by default the worst fight of the night (1/2).

TNA Tag Team Champions James Storm and Gunner beat The BroMANS: As hard as I have been on James Storm in this column, I’m actually enjoying his in-ring work with Gunner. However, the tag team division is pretty much non-existent outside of the champions. They knocked off the BroMANS this week, but now what? Bad Influence are tied up, Hernandez and Chavo might be splitting, and Roode and Aries are in the BFG series. TNA is either going to have to make some new teams, bring in new talent (unlikely, given the recent budget cuts), or find ways to balance the BFG Series with the tag team division. The match up was just okay for my taste (*1/2). 

The Main-Event Mafia Segments: The introduction of Magnus had me intrigued, as I am a fan of Magnus, but the segment was nothing more than a bunch of guys kissing each other’s asses. I also felt that they took away from the rub Chris Sabin could have gotten from beating Aries by being ringside during the main-event. I wasn’t a fan of the original Main-Event Mafia, and to be honest, I’m not too keen on it this time either.

Jeff Hardy beat Joseph Park by DQ in a Bound for Glory Series Match: TNA needs to decide if they are going to do the Park/Abyss reveal soon, or if they are going to slow burn it, because it seems like they have been flip-flopping on that issue. One week Joseph Park is nothing more than a comedy goober. The next, he goes into “Abyss Mode,” but then it’s back to normal the next week. Hopefully by having a competitive match with Hardy (2nd best fight of the fight in my opinion) and laying out the referee, a resolution is on the horizon in the near future (**3/4).

Why Did Ryan Howe Get Through to the Second Round of the Gut Check?: While I wasn’t impressed with the Big O, in kayfabe, why would he not go through to the next round? Could we at least get a little bit of explanation as to why the loser would get the opportunity instead of the guy who beat him? It doesn’t make sense without clarification.

Chris Sabin beat Austin Aries and Manik to win the TNA X-Division Championship: So last week, TJ Perkins revealed himself as the real suicide, and appeared as himself for the rest of the episode. I thought that the final minutes of the triple threat which exclusively focused on Sabin and Aries were great, even though the killing of Sabin’s finishers was a bit much. I haven’t bought into Chris Sabin as a main-eventer, but this helped a little bit, as he picked up a huge victory over Aries. It is also nice to see the X-Division getting a good amount of attention heading into Destination X. Although the payoff to the “Austin Aries is Suicide” mess was Chris Sabin getting a big victory, I still don’t think they went about this the right way. It did not need to be as convoluted or polarizing. Instead of building up a steady stream of momentum for Sabin, they briefly set him back, then put him back where he would have been anyway. In the end, the whole thing was basically an over-the-top plot devise that got us back to exactly where we were before (****1/4).

This week is tough to give a score to, as I really liked some of it, found some of it to be okay, and couldn’t stand other parts of it. The logic behind guys befriending Sting NOW because there is a label on it, Sting’s sudden character transformation, and the Manik character are going to be bothering me going into the foreseeable future. However, TNA did create some interesting new directions this week. AJ Styles looks intent on gaining points, Destination X seems pretty important, and Hernandez is going to get out of his rut. All in all, this week’s good outweighed this week’s bad.

Show Rating 6.0 (Average)

WWE Smackdown Review 7/5/13

The Friendzone: So CM Punk is facing Alberto Del Rio in the main event, and Paul Heyman thinks this is a bad idea when Punk could be resting for the Money in the Bank match. He also offers to accompany Punk to the ring at Money in the Bank to watch his back. Punk rejects both, reminding Heyman they’re just friends. A short, entertaining segment that also inches their storyline forward, which is something that happens all too little on Smackdown these days.

The Usos d. The Rhodes Scholars: The match didn’t have much to it, but it was a good enough showcase of the Usos, who are one of the more unique and enjoyable duos to watch in the ring in recent WWE history. The Shield’s post match promo was suitably intimidating as well. There wasn’t really enough substance in this to go into the right section, but it was undeniably effective (N/R).

Alicia Fox d. Kaitlyn: Briefly, when AJ came out to ringside and Kaitlyn just started to annihilate Alicia, I thought they were going to do a clever twist on the tired trope of “Wrestler A distracts Wrestler B allowing Wrestler C to pick up the win with a roll-up.” But instead, AJ distracted Kaitlyn, allowing Fox to pick up the win with a roll-up. This feud continues to flit between unpleasant and just plain boring (DUD).

Randy Orton d. Christian: This was so good! I’ve not seen a match as good as this. If they’d gone out and done a mere re-run of their 2011 feud I would have been happy enough, but they played off their familiarity with each other with some terrific counters and counter-counters and counter-counter-counters, making it a unique bout in its own right. I really liked the sequence when Christian sprang to the top rope looking for his sunset flip, which prompted Orton to position himself for the RKO, only for him to do it too early and allow Christian to counter that in turn. So many counters. Towards the end of the match it became a bit more of a conventionally structured match with the usual big moves and near falls, but this was still a terrific match, one of if not the best on Smackdown this year (***1/2).

Dolph Ziggler d. Drew McIntyre: Ziggler continues to be an intensely dislikeable face, with his pre-match promo essentially consisting of him saying “hey guys Del Rio tried to suck up to you, I would never do that because I’m cocky and arrogant, and also you’re all waaaaaaaay too smart for that, you bunch of geniuses, have you ever considered joining MENSA? Gosh, you’re all so smart. I love smart people. But I sure hate suck-ups, and I’m going to beat-up Del Rio for being one!” But the match was a fun spirited squash, and I am fond of Ziggler humiliating the Three-Man Band or as I like to call them the Three-Man Duds without laying a finger on them (*).

Fandango d. Justin Gabriel: Fandango’s fantastic, isn’t he? There’s not a moment when he isn’t 100% in character and positively reveling in playing it. His offence is quite fun as well. There wasn’t much to this match but FAAAAAANDANNNNNNGOOOOOO (DUD).

CM Punk N/C Alberto Del Rio: At just under ten minutes this match was a little shorter than most would have hoped, but it was enjoyable while it lasted and contained honest to god storyline advancement, which is something almost extinct on Smackdown. Punk snapping on Del Rio when he belted Heyman isn’t revelatory or anything, but it re-asserts the two’s friendship in a week that had called it into question. We all know where this angle is going, but if it continues to be carried by Punk, Heyman and Lesnar, with minimal involvement from Curtis Axel, then we should have a fun journey there (**1/2).

An enjoyable episode of Smackdown, thanks to the excellent bout between Randy Orton and Christian and most of the other segments at the very least not being given enough time to wear out their welcome. Not a ground-breaking episode of TV or anything, but probably a better watch than Raw this week.

Show Rating 7.5 (Good)