Written By: Mark Armstrong
Some quick comments about wrestling-related developments over the last seven days, and a few random ones too:
- Dean Ambrose accusing Brock Lesnar of being lazy in regards to their WrestleMania 32 match during his Stone Cold Podcast appearance is not without merit. Given Lesnar’s lack of motivation inside WWE rings so far this year, his preference to fight in UFC again, his doping test failure and his continuous part-time status for which he remains highly paid, one has to ask if Lesnar is really worth the money to WWE anymore, and if fans would really miss him if he left? Unless Brock plans to utilise more of his once-excellent wrestling repertoire in the future, WWE might be best served having Lesnar finally lose cleanly for the first time since he ended The Streak no later than WrestleMania 33, and prepare for Brock’s exit should he leave when his current contract expires after WM 34.
- The first showing of CM Punk’s documentary to promote his debut UFC fight underscores that his much-anticipated UFC bow is now only a matter of weeks anyway. Strange as it may sound, this could be the most intriguing wrestling-related showdown all year. One thing is for sure: far more wrestling fans will be watching this fight than any other UFC showdown to date. Can Punk prove his naysayers wrong, or will his first combat battle since WWE Royal Rumble 2014 end in disaster?
- On a final UFC note, Conor McGregor upset many wrestlers past and present with his anti-wrestling comments on Twitter. If he has jeopardised a future UFC/WWE partnership, then his 140 characters caused a lot of damage. But it’s still reassuring to see that the wrestling community will still come together as one to defend their art, at a time when the business has never been more exposed.
- Raw was fairly uneventful this week, with the big names either absent or only contributing verbally, and no real stand-out match despite Cesaro pulling double duty. I assume that next week’s edition will be a lot busier, but hopefully this isn’t a sign that the three-hour show will be a drag in these post-Draft times. That Stephanie McMahon was also absent, and yet the show was still underwhelming, is worrying because it adds weight to the idea that Raw somehow needs the incredibly annoying Stephanie heel character.
- SmackDown was the superior show this week, although it was slightly inferior to last week’s episode. This was likely due to the absence of John Cena and AJ Styles, who were on an international tour with the Raw crew (don’t ask). Nevertheless, the Tuesday show is making the most of talent from the top to the bottom, including Eva Marie via her “accidental” mishaps to avoid actually competing. The show could still improve, but SmackDown is now relevant for the first time in years, which is a big positive.
- NXT is fast approaching its second Takeover: Brooklyn show the night before SummerSlam. Samoa Joe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura could be the Match Of The Year, and Asuka vs. Bayley will be well worth watching too. Add to that the recent arrival of Bobby Roode and his already-legendary theme music, the debut of Kota Ibushi and the continuing success of players such as The Revival, and it’s clear that Takeover: Back To Brooklyn should be another fantastic offering from the always-motivated NXT crew.
- That being said, the Cruiserweight Classic has been the hidden gem of the WWE Network in recent weeks. Halfway through the series, the action has been very warmly-received, with several memorable matches on the first five episodes. Hopefully this will become an annual thing, and the CC will hopefully serve as a preview of what’s expected to be a thriving cruiserweight division on Raw.
- Ryback finally leaving WWE was not a surprise, but it was unexpected to hear that WWE.com head Joey Styles had been released, possibly for some controversial comments during a Facebook live interview. With the exception of Paul Heyman, Styles was the last link to the original ECW in WWE, so his exit is the end of an era in some ways. That said, his announcing career was curtailed in 2008 (WWE somehow preferred Mike Adamle), so if his release allows him to once again commentate outside of WWE, his exit might not be such a bad thing.
- Although TNA Wrestling is still struggling by all accounts, it’s good to see that Damien Sandow has joined the group. Sandow is a perfect example of somebody who WWE did not use to his full potential, and since he has built up such a large following, Sandow should make a big impact (no pun intended) in TNA. I envision him winning gold in TNA possibly before the end of the year, assuming that the promotion can continue on in its current form.
- Each week, I’ll add a quick note on another wrestling-related news item, and one relevant point at present is the imminent battle between Vader and Will Ospreay, stemming from Will’s criticism of Vader’s criticism of Will’s infamous match with Ricochet. Vader may be in his 60s now, but since Ospreay genuinely comes across as being disrespectful outside of the ring, part of me hopes that the Mastadon of old resurfaces for one night only, if you catch my drift (if you don’t, never mind).
- I’ll preview SummerSlam properly next week, but I’ll say here that the show has the potential to be the best of the year so far. There are plenty of potential show-stealers booked on the card, and no doubt the participants will be aiming to make sure that their bout is the one that fans are talking about when it’s all said and done. Suffice it to say, SummerSlam weekend should be a pretty memorable one, especially when you add in Joe vs. Nakamura 24 hours earlier.
- And I will finish with a retro opinion of sorts. If you are ever bored and looking for something to watch on WWE Network, have a gander at the content of WCW Nitro and PPV events from 2000, especially the April-to-August period. Yes, it’s mostly awful, but it’s almost so bad that it’s good (okay, maybe not). From Vince Russo shooting on Hulk Hogan to the desperately-dangerous stunts to the daft gimmick matches (remember when Goldberg refused to take a Powerbomb from Kevin Nash in a “real” moment that was part of a storyline, as daft as that sounds?), it’s fascinating to watch, if only to see how far the company had fallen from its 1996-1998 peak. It’s a first-hand demonstration into why Vince Russo receives so much criticism from hardcore wrestling fans.
That’s my random round-up of wrestling opinions this week; I’ll return with my thoughts next week, including my predictions for SummerSlam!