WWE Match of the Week:
AJ Styles vs. John Cena for the WWE World Championship
Royal Rumble 2017, Sunday, 1/29
John Cena and AJ Styles have the best in-ring chemistry of any two singles wrestlers today, and this match cements it. If somehow you haven’t seen this match yet (and I don’t know how you’re reading this if you haven’t) turn this on now. And if you have, go back and watch again.
Remember how I said all the moves in the world couldn’t make me love Omega vs. Okada as much as everyone else? Cena working heel was such a surprise (well, not when you look back at his promo from SmackDown Live’s go-home show) and glued my eyes to this match. Further, the story of Cena emptying his bag of tricks (and the unspoken story of Cena working in an indieriffic style) make the moves mean something, rather than just looking impressive. This wasn’t Vince’s Cena, this was Cena the wrestling nerd.
It’s worth noting that for once a WWE main roster PPV out-did an NXT TakeOver, but it’s unfortunate that the stellar match from Roderick Strong and Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas on TakeOver: San Antonio got overshadowed by Big Match John and Some Guy From Georgia, but that’s how the weekend filled out.
Non-WWE Match of the Week:
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Chris Hero
EVOLVE 77, 1/28
Finally, I get to talk about an Evolve match in this piece. And let me tell you, this one’s fun. While its ending is on the predictable side (as Hero’s last match before he returns to WWE, it’s expected for him to “go out on his back”) there’s enough false-finishes to make you second guess conventional wisdom.
Evolve set this match up with a promo on the previous night where Zack Sabre Jr. said “When I finally beat you in an EVOLVE ring, then Chris Hero can stay, and ‘Kassius Ohno’ can piss off back to Florida" with that finally emphasizing that Mr. Death By Elbow has had the Brit’s number for a while now. Of course, Lenny Leonard emphasized this on commentary, but it helped tell the story for those in attendance who may not have known.
The match itself worked me so well because it gave Sabre Jr. a chance to emphasize his striking ability, giving his offense some dimensionality. From the running boot near the beginning to the forearms at the end, Mr. Armbar is getting to show depth. Thinking about the WWE style, it’s also nice to watch Hero get one last change to work so brutally, with elbows from here to eternity and every kind of piledriver he could think of.
You can watch Evolve 77 on FloSlam.
WWE Segment of the Week:
Unexpected Backstage Footage
And from A Hero’s Farewell we naturally transition to Ohno’s Return. I went into this past weekend wondering how Nakamura will lose the title (it’s felt like Roode’s win was in the cards for a month), if the appearance of Kassius Ohno at an NXT taping to suggest he’s coming for Nakamura’s Title was to be canonical. Now, it seems like that footage will be tossed away forever.
I give so much preamble because I don’t want to spell out what happens here, just to tell you to find it and watch. I started this episode late and knew something was going to happen but not like this. Which makes it something I’d like to recognize. WWE surprising me, the rarest of rarities.
No video to share of it here, just open it on the network, and enjoy this. The rest of the episode is good for moments too, such as the post-Rumble interview with Tye Dillinger but especially that farewell package for Corey Graves , which had me feeling emotions. I didn’t get to watch WWE 24: Wrestlemania Dallas prior to writing this, but since that’s a documentary, it didn’t feel like it necessarily fit. I hear the Big E & Xavier ❤ Kofi stuff is excellent, though.
Non-WWE Segment of the Week:
A Hero’s Goodbye
EVOLVE 77, 1/28
By this point, you’re probably able to see how fond I am of Chris Hero, but this segment worked both for EVOLVE as a promotion and for the individual performers, as humans.
Those with more old fashioned sensibilities may not like this segment, as it’s an even more transparent version of the MSG Curtain Call, but as a fan of each guy, I sure dug it. From Hero talking about how he met Zack Sabre Jr. and saw the kid coming up to asking who Zack Sabre Sr. is, we got a chance to see them appreciate each other for how they bring out their best.
Then, to have ACH come out and hear Hero reveal what the A stands for, and to see him appreciate the two competitors, was also great. Around this time you see the other talent lining up to make their goodbyes, and you think about what Hero means to the independent scene. That maybe he’s their hero too.
Lastly, though, the setup of the championship title picture, starting by Hero calling Stokely Hathaway the valet of Tim Thatcher, has my brain buzzing. ACH nominating himself as a contender worked, as did Hathaway laughing them all off. Thathcher himself, though, tied it all together with his appearance and a single gesture.