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Watch This Wrestling 41 (10/15—21)

Hello friends!

Yep, I took a while off from doing this thing. Why? Mostly because it’s been a busy season outside of this little project. And maybe I’m starting to wonder if this should be a Monthly thing and not a weekly thing. Agree? Disagree? As always, @ me on twitter: henrytcasey to let me know what you think.

What I Watched

  • Evolve 95, 10/15
  • Monday Night Raw, 10/16
  • SmackDown LIVE, 10/17
  • 205 Live, 10/17
  • NXT, 10/18
  • Lucha Underground, 10/18
  • CZW: The Wolf of Wrestling, VOD 10/18

Upcoming Watch List

  • WWE TLC, 10/22
  • Nova Pro Wrestling: Nova Project 3, 10/22
  • Powerbomb TV: Futures, 10/22
  • Monday Night Raw, 10/23
  • SmackDown LIVE, 10/24
  • 205 Live, 10/25
  • NXT, 10/26
  • PCW: Fright Night, 10/27

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

“Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams vs Zack Sabre Jr.

Evolve 95, 10/15

I kinda wanted to give this to one of the Lucha Underground Season 3 finale matches, but couldn’t. Even though I’m writing this almost a month after it happened, Williams vs Sabre Jr. still sticks out in my memory.

A technical master-class, I loved this bout because it continued to push forward the slow-burn story of ZSJ’s weakness. Yes, he won, but Hot Sauce looked amazing here, just like Jaka did the previous night in his non-title victory over Sabre.

Available on WWNlive.com because WWN and FloSlam fell apart faster than a birthday cake in a pro wrestling setting.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Matt Riddle vs Fred Yehi, Evolve 95, 10/15
  • Mil Muertes vs Cage vs Jeremiah Crane, Lucha Underground, 10/18
  • Lucha Underground Career vs. Title Match: Prince Puma vs Champion Johnny Mundo, Lucha Underground, 10/18

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

Lucha Underground Finale Montage

Lucha Underground, 10/18

In a surprise to no one, the finale scenes of Lucha Underground’s third season brought all of the thunder. Both of the show’s prior season cappers included shocking moments, but this time it bore an even greater responsibility, as this could have been the series finale, and many fans were aware that Puma’s departure was for real, as the wrestler who portrays him (Ricochet) has been teasing a departure for months and months.

And then, it delivered — and it did so in spades. While we can spend posts debating what Dario Cueto said into a phone as he bled out (he better not be dead, damnit) — and Brandon Stroud already put work into that, we can’t just stall out there. From King Cuerno’s epic trophy room to the surprise appearance in the Lizard Temple to the Spider-Man No More-esque goodbye from Puma, this sequence was exquisite.

And fortunately for me, I took so long to write this that we know this won’t be Lucha’s final season:

pic.twitter.com/eczgLhReET

Also, a little note to Evolve. That crazy clusterfuck ending to Evolve 95 wasn’t how you do a brawl to close out. Sure, you had the epic DARBY OFF THE BACKBOARD spot I desperately wanted to see in Corona, NY (at the death house called The Elmcor), but that was a little too early for The End to be met with a significant challenge.

Available via El Rey, iTunes and other services

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Match of The Week:

Aleister Black vs Raul Mendoza

NXT, 10/18

It’s funny, I didn’t remember this match when I was skimming through the NXT archives, but fast-forwarding to the middle of it, I realized this was the easy pick of the WWE week. Yes, that’s owed in part to it being a weak week for matches in the E, but this had a memorable moment despite Mendoza being utterly forgettable in it.

Yes, this is one of the excellent matches that stoked the fire of the feud between Black and Velveteen Dream. Dream’s finally finding that character, and Black’s utter fury — taken out on Mendoza — is perfect.

WWE Segment of the Week:

Kevin and Sami Explain Themselves, Again

SmackDown LIVE, 10/10

We don’t know what exactly is going on backstage with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn — reportedly kicked off the last leg of a recent European tour — but on camera they are gold.

This segment, where they harass Daniel Bryan, and go in on him for becoming a corporate lackey, is another example of why Kevin Owens is doing better than most of the company when it comes to promos. He has a memory that outlasts the most recent three months. Bringing up how Bryan used to be anti-authority, and now cares about what’s best for business? Ties the room together, man.

Honorable Mentions:

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Watch This Wrestling 26 (7/2–8)

You’ll notice is that while ROH TV is in my watched list, but it isn’t in my to-watch-list. Why’s that? Their TV shows have been not-great for months and with a massive amount of Progress and NJPW to watch over the coming weeks, I’m trying to use my time more efficiently. Also, I’ve gotten tired of their PPVs and TV episodes not lining up because of their pre-tape schedule.

Also, a belated Best Non-WWE award to The Bachelorette for the Kenny King vs Lee The Racist feud. So while I love Kenny King now, and he won an ROH TV title #1 contender’s ranking this week on ROH TV, that’s still not enough for me to keep watching that show as it is these days. If ROH TV somehow improves its shows, then we’ll see if they can get the rose again.

As always, if I’m missing anything that can be accessed without too much trouble, @ me on twitter: henrytcasey.

What I Watched

  • New Japan G1 Special Night 2, 7/2
  • Monday Night Raw, 7/3
  • ROH Wrestling, 7/3
  • SmackDown LIVE, 7/4
  • 205 Live, 7/4
  • Talking Smack Live, 7/4
  • Progress: Chapter 50: I Give It Six Months, 7/4
  • NXT, 7/5
  • Lucha Underground, 7/5
  • Evolve 88, 7/8

Upcoming Watch List

  • Evolve 89, 7/9
  • Being The Elite Ep. 63, “Hot Topic”, 7/9
  • Monday Night Raw, 7/10
  • SmackDown LIVE, 7/11
  • 205 Live, 7/12
  • Talking Smack Live, 7/12
  • NXT, 7/13
  • Lucha Underground, 7/13

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

Best of Bros: Keith Lee and Matt Riddle

WWNLive via YouTube, 7/7

This may go as no shock as I am a fan of ~both these guys~, but this is another solid mini-doc from Kenny Johnson. This is the first I’ve seen of a promotion focusing on Riddle’s Altered Bro moments, and the digital effects applied there are great.

Also, this shows off their Evolve 87 match as the must-see it was, as well as giving more spotlight to Keith Lee’s charisma, and attention to the issue of being friendly with someone who’s out to get you. Riddle didn’t show up to aide Lee at Evolve 88, and this could be shown as reason why, with The Bro not wanting his strongest competition at full-strength. Or he’s just a prick like John Cena who doesn’t do anything when his “friends” get attacked.

Honorable Mentions:

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Zack Sabre Jr. vs Tomohiro Ishii, IWGP US Championship Tournament match

New Japan G1 Special Night 2, 7/2

The inclusion of Tomohiro Ishii is one of the things about the G1 Special in the US events that makes me the most jealous, considering The Stone Pitbull didn’t show up at the ROH / NJPW War of The Worlds NYC PPV.

This event gave the LA audience everything I wanted, and then some. Of the matches they got, I preferred his match against ZSJ because you rarely see Ishii in submission matches, and this showed he’s great there too. Also, loved the insane move of ZSJ’s trying to go strike for strike with the walking, talking human version of Ben Grimm aka The Thing.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Kenny Omega vs Jay Lethal, New Japan G1 Special Night 2, 7/2
  • Tomohiro Ishii vs Kenny Omega, New Japan G1 Special Night 2, 7/2
  • Young Bucks vs ROPPONGI Vice, New Japan G1 Special Night 2, 7/2
  • Kay Lee Ray vs Toni Storm ©, Progress Chapter 50
  • CCK vs BSS, Progress Chapter 50
  • Ethan Page vs Keith Lee, Evolve 88, 7/8
  • Darby Allin vs “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams, Evolve 88, 7/8
  • ACH vs. Fred Yehi for the Evolve World Championship #1 Contender position, Evolve 88, 7/8

WWE Match of The Week:

AJ Styles vs Chad Gable

SmackDown LIVE, 7/4

I was split this week on the E’s best match, because both were great, but also predictable. But while I enjoyed Roode being despicable, I cared more about the continuation of Chad Gable’s solo sojourn.

As Gable said in a backstage interview afterwards, the tag division is a little packed at the moment. If they need solid solo matches to get the audiences to care more about American Alpha, so be it.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Segment of the Week:

The Rap Battle: The New Day vs The Usos

SmackDown LIVE, 7/4

The first great rap-related segment in WWE history, and it had bars for days. Haven’t seen it somehow? Find another version than the one below, as WWE left off the best bar.

Honorable Mentions:

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Watch This Wrestling 25 (6/25–7/1)

With this post, I’ve hit the half-year mark of the Watch This Wrestling project! I don’t know if we’re going to hit 52 editions, because of scheduling changes I made, but after this post goes up, I’m considering these first 25 to be the first half of the year, which I’ll use for a roundup.

The other bit of preamble, anyone else wondering what inspired the WWE to book women’s main events in all three of their major shows this past week? Was it GLOW debuting, or how poorly they did in the previous week? Either way, I hope this emphasis continues, instead of fading away.

As always, if I’m missing anything that can be accessed without too much trouble, @ me on twitter: henrytcasey.

What I Watched

  • Evolve 87, 6/25
  • Monday Night Raw, 6/26
  • ROH Wrestling, 6/26
  • SmackDown LIVE, 6/27
  • 205 Live, 6/27
  • Talking Smack Live, 6/27
  • NXT, 6/28
  • Lucha Underground, 6/28
  • New Japan G1 Special Night 1, 7/1

Upcoming Watch List

  • New Japan G1 Special Night 2, 7/2
  • Monday Night Raw, 7/3
  • ROH Wrestling, 7/3
  • SmackDown LIVE, 7/4
  • 205 Live, 7/4
  • Talking Smack Live, 7/4
  • NXT, 7/5
  • Lucha Underground, 7/5
  • Evolve 88, 7/8

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Zack Sabre Jr. vs Jaka

Evolve 87, 6/25

I hope that the solid barn-burner that was Evolve 87 doesn’t get lost in the overshadowing nature of NJPW’s #G1USA event, because holy shit it was more consistent than either night of those Long Beach shows. but I loved this match so much.

Why? Because this match showed that Jaka can be a singles wrestler, and a very damn good one at that. The story was simple: don’t sleep on Jaka. Zack Sabre Jr. spent the match evolving from that state of slumber to one of being wide-the-fuck-awake at the guy’s ability.

And to have it end with Jaka, a heel, be sad that he couldn’t get it done, and have it come across as sincere and not ruin his heelishness? Excellent. Love that he was visually stuck inside the moment, which felt natural.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Keith Lee vs Matt Riddle, Evolve 87, 6/25
  • Fred Yehi vs Chris Dickinson. Evolve 87, 6/25
  • Bobby Fish vs Silas Young, ROH Wrestling, 6/26
  • Jay White vs Punishment Martinez, ROH Wrestling, 6/26
  • Zack Sabre Jr. vs Juice Robinson, New Japan G1 Special Night 1, 7/1
  • Michael Elgin vs Kenny Omega, New Japan G1 Special Night 1, 7/1
  • Kazuchika Okada vs Cody, New Japan G1 Special Night 1, 7/1

WWE Match of The Week:

Asuka vs. Nikki Cross: Last Woman Standing

NXT, 6/28

First off, the start of this match has a pacing to it that is missing from WWE matches. Sure, they may have just used three headlock tie-ups and a dodged kick, but those moments fit with them analyzing each other so well, that it immediately lent the match some urgency and big fight feel.

I wondered how the stipulation would fit into how the match played out, but since neither is a technical wrestler, it works as a brawl. That also made the finish, an impact move, make sense, even though it didn’t target the legs.

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Raw Women’s division in a number one contender’s gauntlet match, Monday Night Raw, 6/26
  • Carmella vs Natalya vs Charlotte vs Becky Lynch vs Tamina in a Money In The Bank Ladder Match, SmackDown Live, 6/27

WWE Segment of the Week:

Enzo and Cass Make-up to Break-up

Monday Night Raw, 6/26

This feels weird, but it’s earned. Mostly because of how it succeeded by going completely against the grain. For Enzo to come out there, and humble himself, and own his bullshit, is not what a WWE face does. So often, as a Cageside Seats post pointed out, only the WWE heels make sense, as Cass did last week.

So for Cass to wreck Enzo after his former lil buddy made so much sense, and after falsely forgiving him? That makes Cass a true villain, and it shows they’re going all-in on this.

Honorable Mentions:

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

Dario Cueto finds competition for Son of Havoc

Lucha Underground, 6/28

Not the strongest week for outside the ring content, but this segment had me howling. Why? The show introduced a new character who seems to be from Son of Havoc’s past, one who looks an awful lot like WWE superstar Luke Harper. Not the biggest deal, but it had me screaming.

Lucha Underground can be seen on El Rey and the iTunes TV Store.

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Watch This Wrestling 14 (4/6–12)

But first, about that elephant in the arena…

I want to reaffirm some of the reason behind this weekly roundup. Every week, WWE provide more than enough hours of pro wrestling for most, but there’s more. From those wacky Brits in Progress to the insane bastards of New Japan, wrestling isn’t just WWE.

This past week, there was as much reason to reiterate the above as ever before. No, not because of the phenomenal match between Kazuchika Okada and Katsuyori Shibata at Sakura Genesis. But because of the big outside-the-ring story of bullying in the WWE making the rounds in major publications such as Sports Illustrated and the New York Post.

Vince’s love of fucking with people is no secret, but this has popped up because of speculation that SmackDown Live color commentary announcer, noted veteran, and all-around-cancerous-motherfucker JBL is the reason for the absence of SDL play-by-play announcer Mauro Ranallo. You know, JBL, the guy who thought it’d be OK to goose-step like a Nazi during a show in Germany.

While we haven’t heard any stories about what JBL did to Mauro, who has been public about his bipolar diagnosis, and is off-air for what has been reported as stress, nothing would surprise anyone at this stage. It’s currently expected that Mauro and WWE will settle in private, and that WWE will address this in some way, as the story has been made too-public to ignore.

If it were up to me, and Mauro were not available to the WWE anymore, the SDL announce team would be Corey Graves, Byron Saxton and Renee Young. Of related note this week was the shamelessly transparent “we’re trading the black commentators!” moment where Raw traded Saxton for the useless lump of humanity called David Otunga.

Thankfully, we get a six-week window before Raw Is 3 Hours of Otunga goes into effect, thanks to his commitment to filming a movie where he’s playing a lawyer. In that time, Booker T will be filling in, because (again), “LOL BLACK COMMENTATORS, GOTTA HAVE ONE, AND NO MORE THAN ONE!” Assuming Book does well, I’d like to see a Raw team some day that’s him, Graves, and Tom Phillips.

As always, a list of what I watched for this week’s edition and what I’m planning to watch next week. If I’m missing anything that can be accessed without too much trouble, @ me on twitter: henrytcasey.

What I Watched:

Upcoming Watch List:

  • PROGRESS Wrestling Presents: Freedom’s Road S01E07, 4/13
  • OTT: Scrappermania III, 4/15
  • Monday Night Raw, 4/17
  • ROH Wrestling, 4/17
  • SmackDown Live, 4/18
  • 205 Live, 4/18
  • Talking Smack Live, 4/18
  • NXT, 4/19

Non-WWE Match of the Week:

Kazuchika Okada © vs Katsuyori Shibata for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship

NJPW: Genesis, 4/9

Most matches don’t get 38 minutes between bells, but that’s because few have the conditioning and technical prowess of Okada and Shibata. The former is the crown jewel of New Japan and the latter, well, he would have been on the rise after one hell of a match. More on that in a moment.

The story here is that Shibata enters the match guns ablazin and in a far more passionate state than Okada. The crowd is on board with this, vocally entirely behind Shibata. Okada is entering that mixed-reactions phase of his career most people associate with John Cena and Roman Reigns, and this match cemented it. Felt a bit like Punk/Cena MITB in that way. Except Okada starts taking shortcuts, playing to the boos.

Without spoiling any spots, I’ll leave discussion of the good parts of the match at that.

Part of me doesn’t want to give the win to the most-talked-about match of the week, but it was the best match outside of the week, despite its serious flaw. And that flaw is so bad that I won’t go back and rewatch this match, despite loving (the majority of) it.

While I always suggest people go watch these matches, this one comes with a brutal asterisk. Near the end of this match, which was already going to win MOTW, Shibata leveled Okada with what is now believed to be a shoot-headbutt. As in the skull-to-skill headbutt that split Shibata open was legitimate, despite early reports of it being a work.

As reported by many, including Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer, reports are coming out that Shibata is currently hospitalized, dealing with lingering right-side paralysis. Meltzer noted that Shibata has “some memories of the match” as if to infer that memory loss is involved. After all of this, it is expected that Shibata will never be cleared to wrestle again, ending his young career. Thankfully, it appears he will recover, but we shouldn’t have needed to hope for that.

It brings up a question of what kind of stiff work is actively encouraged or at least tacitly endorsed by the New Japan management. Much like WWE with its bullying problem, NJPW needs to take this moment to consider how it does business.

Sakura Genesis is available on NJPW World.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Moustache Mountain (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate) © vs The Hunter Brothers (Jim Hunter & Lee Hunter) for the PROGRESS Tag Team Titles, Progress Ch. 46: I Like To Chill Out Here And Shoot Some Dinosaurs, 4/7
  • Pete Dunne vs Mark Andrews for the PROGRESS World Title, Progress Ch. 46: I Like To Chill Out Here And Shoot Some Dinosaurs, 4/7
  • Hirooki Goto vs Zack Sabre Jr., for the NEVER Openweight championship, NJPW: Genesis, 4/9
  • Curt Stallion vs John Skyler in a 2017 Top Prospects Tournament semi-final match, ROH Wrestling, 4/10

Non-WWE Segment of the Week:

EVOVLE Mini-Doc: Zack Sabre Jr. Can’t Make a Mistake

EVOLVE, WWN Live, 4/12

Evolve’s mini-docs, which get attributed to Kenny Johnson, are typically great previews or recaps. This one, though, goes further. It tells twin stories of frustration, from the current EVOLVE champ Zack Sabre Jr. and recent signee ACH.

As the title suggests, the focus of the feature is ZSJ hanging onto his title by a hair. What that means for Zack is that he’s getting closer to the “do whatever it takes” mentality that heels use, to cheat to keep his championship.

This, if you’re following Sabre Jr. outside of this promotion, is intriguing. In Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG) and New Japan, to name a couple of the other place he pops up, things are different.

Everywhere but EVOLVE, he’s called “Zacky Three Belts” because he’s crossed over to the dark side, turning heel. So whether he’s joining Minoru Suzuki’s nefarious Suzuki-Gun faction or tag-teaming with The Villain Marty Scurll as The Leaders of The New School, he’s always drawing ire. It’s the role that many who see his lanky frame and know-it-all submission style believe he was born to play.

And then we have ACH – who has worked as a friend of Zack’s in EVOLVE – who came here to win gold. ACH who should have been a world champion by now, but was passed over. ACH who couldn’t get the job done in Orlando, against Sabre Jr. at EVOVLE 80.

ACH who says he doesn’t know what comes next. ACH who’s been a face all this time and maybe that’s not enough.

Of course, this video doesn’t hammer home either potential turn all that hard. Gotta keep that surprise going. I love how the focus and zoom fall out of the scene where Michael Elgin cold-cocks Zack Sabre Jr. after basically demanding their match be for the title. And then the brief moments they bring from Elgin/ZSJ definitely paint Sabre Jr. as valorous and Elgin and the prick.

And then the other challengers. Lio Rush, who challenges Sabre Jr. for the title at the next EVOLVE events, and has “no more time to waste.” Ethan Page, tired of getting looked over by the booking committee, and more than happy to remind you of his two wins against Zack.

And finally, back to Sabre Jr., who speaks of the weight of the belt on his shoulder. If that doesn’t get you buying tickets or a FloSlam subscription, then I’m confused.

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Match of the Week:

AJ Styles vs Sami Zayn vs Baron Corbin in a #1 Contender’s match for the United States Championship

SmackDown Live, 4/11

The Superstar Shakeup gave SmackDown Live the kind of roster that everyone wished it had on day 1. Sure, we thought Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt were amazing workers, but that just wasn’t happening.

So this past week saw them add a flurry of talent, with Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens coming over as two marquee acquisitions. Oh, and they’re also adding Big E, Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston (give me New Day singles runs) and Rusev to a show that already had AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Baron Corbin, Tye Dillinger and Luke Harper? So hot, hot damn.

And as if they felt the need to prove themselves, Zayn, Styles and Corbin put together a match worthy of their names. So while Styles is still working through being a good guy, Sami’s trying to prove himself against a bully he can hurt (Corbin is no Strowman), and Corbin is showing that he’s a fast learner.

This was the closest call for WWE MOTW in a while. While this had to be the winner, I appreciated the work in the other two matches, also worth checking out. This one just had more time and better pacing. Find the full version on Hulu if you have to.

Honorable Mentions:

Note: Both Galloway and Gallagher hit headbutts, no reports have emerged of resultant injuries.

WWE Segment of the Week:

Braun Strowman Savagely Attacks Roman Reigns

Monday Night Raw, 4/10

I’m really confused about what WWE meant to do with this segment, but I loved it so much nonetheless. This isn’t the best WWE segment of the year (remember the Festival of Friendship?), but damn it’s a close second.

Sure, he didn’t lift the ambulance (hello, it’s pro wrestling), but everything else about it was just so damn cool. Braun just rag-dolling Reigns around the backstage area elevates him to the most awesome thing on the Raw roster.

I watched this Raw at a bar with other fans, and this segment became the most amazing moment when consumed with a dozen or so fans screaming their heads off. So I just can’t emphasize enough how huge this moment is. 

WWE needs to handle this properly on Monday, and keep Roman off TV and let Braun continue to be the next wonder of the world, but not overdo it.

Some notes:

  • Roman takes a moment to remove his clipped-on microphone, because he’s a good employee who treats company property with care.
  • The segment wins by demonstrating impossible awesomeness by way of camera tricks.
  • Someone (possibly the WWE) started a god damn online petition to fire Strowman. That, if done outside of the company, is today’s version of that time people thought the NWO actually invaded WCW and called the police.
  • How does this happen the same week as The United Incident?

And about my confusion:

So, this made Strowman cooler than ever for many. Was it supposed to make Roman pitiable? Likable? Is this just to get Roman cool as a vengeful motherfucker?

After Roman Reigns had all the heat last week, are they trying to cool him down? What the hell?

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Don’t Miss This 4 (1/27 — 2/2)

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

NXT, 12/1

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.