By Haydn Gleed, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@haydngleed)
-Well it’s been a long time since I’ve written a blog rounding up the news of the week, so with that in mind I have quite a bit to talk about from the last month or so. NXT UK have been creating a buzz since the great NXT UK Takeover: Blackpool after an initial twenty four episode run that fizzled as opposed to sizzled with the majority of the wrestling world. I still believe that initially there wasn’t a plan for an NXT UK Takeover this early in the brand’s history, otherwise the planning of having two shows on a Wednesday was ill conceived. Coming out of Takeover, it appears we are only going to get one episode a week, which is a much better way of getting people hooked to a brand that has wrestlers they are not familiar with and/or they don’t have an emotional attachment too.
This weeks offering however was a little on the underwhelming side but given the formula we are used too with the main NXT brand following Takeover we shouldn’t really be surprised. They are starting the process of building to whatever they have coming up next. Based on how the commentary team continues to talk about the UK tournament being an “annual tradition”, I think it’s safe to assume we will have another this year in the summer months. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have Pete Dunne vs. Walter at the NXT Takeover before WrestleMania as a way of dethroning longstanding champion Dunne while giving more exposure to the brand.
-Obviously the biggest story of the last month has been the announcement of All Elite Wrestling. I am interested to see how much money the Khan family pump into this. The Khan family took over Fulham FC and at the time absorbed a lot of debt. That doesn’t mean that they are not still losing money. My beloved Cardiff City were as much as $200 million in debt not so long ago and we are not exactly big spenders with big wages and we are consistently posting losses even when playing in the Premier League. For several years, Fulham was in the second tier division with wages matching top division players, so the Khans are not adversed to spending money to make money. We are talking about a loss of $80 million dollars in TV rights alone between the two divisions. Tony Khan is clearly a big professional wrestling fan and it’s obvious the plan is to spend a lot of money to try and get AEW to be as successful as it can possibly be from the get go if they secure a television deal. It should be an interesting time once the promotion gets fully off the ground.
-We’re just days before the WWE Royal Rumble, usually one of my favorite events of the year, but I’m just not feeling it this year. It’s simply because the build has been so lackluster. I am mildly curious about the two women’s matches, and I think they will be of a good, strong quality, but I just can’t shake the feeling that they are just placeholder matches until they get around to building towards the match everyone wants to see in Ronda Rousey vs. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte or in whatever combination you want. The build to the WWE Universal Championship match has been clunky at best. If the plan has always been for Finn Balor to be Brock Lesnar’s opponent then they couldn’t have done a worse job of setting up their match. Between the awful in-ring segment and the lackluster reaction to Braun Strowman, I can’t say I was excited about Brock vs. Braun, but at least they have given it a certain amount of time in the build to make it feel like a half decent bout. Instead, they have been building the Lesnar vs. Balor match for two weeks with everyone essentially saying Finn has no chance of winning. The smart money is on that being true so you are left with a match that feels incredibly predictable.
As for the Rumble matches, the only real interest I have is in the winners, not the potential storylines happening within the match or the possibilities coming out it. I want to be excited and not knowing who is going to win is a usually positive, but I’m coming from a position of not being excited about anyone who potentially could win the Rumble. Seth Rollins? Meh. Drew McIntyre? He’s lacking credibility in WWE. Samoa Joe? WWE hasn’t put a lot of faith in him outside of jobbing out at the end of feuds. As for the women’s Rumble match, I’d be surprised if it was anyone except Charlotte Flair, so I don’t see anyone else winning in a shocker.
-I am looking forward to NXT Takeover: Phoenix. I’m also looking forward to seeing the NXT UK shows taped over the weekend and the World’s Collide tournament, which is a great concept. Five wrestlers each from NXT, NXT UK, and 205 Live is a fascinating idea and if done well is the closest we will get to inter-brand dream matches. If they show restraint and keep the talents apart through the year then this will be a lovely annual addition to Royal Rumble weekend.
It’s been interesting to see how ROH has reacted to the loss of The Elite crew and the SCU trio. They may have started a notable push for trainee Eli Isom and we have already seen the first appearances of Rush, PCO, and Brodie King, who have all signed with the company. The most exciting signing for me is Mark Haskins. Granted, I’m going to be called a UK homer, but I think the ROH fans will love Haskins. He has great in-ring ability and also comes across as incredibly relatable to the “every man”, which should be appreciated by the ROH audience. If it wasn’t for the injuries over the years there is no doubt in my mind that Haskins would be within the WWE system somewhere. WWE’s loss is ROH’s gain.
-To end on a somber note, I want to send out my thoughts and prayers to the friends and family of Emiliano Sala and pilot Dave Ibbotson. Sala is a soccer player who signed for Cardiff City less than a week ago and was traveling back from his former club after picking up his belongings when the plane he was traveling in appears to have crashed into the English Channel. After four days of searching they have been unable to find any trace of either the player or the pilot so the signs aren’t looking good. There is a recording out there of Sala on the plane talking about how scared he was on the plane it’s heartbreaking to hear. The search continues, but obviously this is a very distressing time for anyone affected by this.
-Any thoughts on this week’s blog by all means get in touch via email firstname.lastname@example.org
Check below for the new Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and Will Pruett preview the WWE Royal Rumble and NXT Takeover: Phoenix events.