By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
New Japan Pro Wrestling G1 Opening Night
July 6, 2019 in Dallas, Texas at American Airlines Center
Aired live on AXS TV (internationally on New Japan World)
The broadcast team of Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero checked in from ringside and welcomed viewers to the show. A video package aired the G1 Climax 29 tournament and noted that it was the first time tournament matches would take place in the United States. The A Block participants were spotlighted…
Powell’s POV: The majority of the upper level appears to be tarped off and there are some empty sections in the corners of the lower bowl. Capacity for the building his listed as 20,000, so it’s on the large side for an arena. The set consists of a large black screen with a lighting arch. Dot Net staffer Nick Perkins is in attendance estimates that the venue is 1/3 full. Nick will be tweeting during the show, so give him a follow via @WesternRebel.
1. “Guerrillas of Destiny” Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa vs. “Roppongi 3K” Sho and Yoh. Loa charged at Sho and Yoh, who held down the top rope, causing him to tumble to ringside. Sho and Yoh cleared both opponents from the ring and performed flip dives onto them. Kelly noted the connection between Romero and the Roppongi 3K duo of Sho and Yoh. The 3K duo had a nice flurry of offense, but Tonga and Loa came back with a super powerbomb (from the middle rope) and got the win. Kelly noted that we may have to wait until the end of the tournament find out which team will be next to challenge GOD for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Titles…
Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa vs. Sho and Yoh in 6:15.
Kelly said the next tag team match will be up after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: A fine opener, albeit short in length. If this were a WWE show, it would have been a best of three falls match and been just as brief with a commercial break in between the second and third fall. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
Kelly spoke over brief clips of the talent speaking at the G1 press conference that was held on Friday…
2. Tomohiro Ishii and Shota Umino vs. Jeff Cobb and Ren Narita. Kelly noted that Ishii will face Cobb on Saturday when the B Block action begins. He added that it will be Cobb’s first G1 tournament, whereas it will be Ishii’s seventh G1. Kelly added that Jon Moxley will face Taichi on Saturday. Ishii and Cobb started the match and threw shoulder blocks and forearms at one another. They ended up pushing and shoving and the crowd roared. Narita tagged in and Cobb was still calling for more, then Umino tagged in.
Later, Narita powered up Ishii for a suplex and then tagged in Cobb, who performed release belly to belly suplexes on both opponents. Cobb powered up Ishii for a vertical suplex, then performed a running elbow in the corner. Cobb powered up Ishii and gave him a twisting slam that led to a two count. They went back to trading forearms, which got a rise out of the crowd. Ishii ducked a clothesline and then suplexed Cobb before tagging out.
Umino performed a missile dropkick on Cobb. Umino knocked Narita off the apron to prevent Cobb from tagging out. Umino went for a suplex, but Cobb stuffed it. Umino hit him with forearms and then suplexed him and got a two count. Cobb came back with a standing moonsault for two, then performed the Tour of the Islands and pinned Umino.
Jeff Cobb and Ren Narita beat Tomohiro Ishii and Shota Umino in 7:20.
Ishii and Cobb squared off again afterward and had to be pulled apart. A brief “let them fight” chant broke out. Cobb, who had a little blood coming out of one nostril, stood on the second rope and motioned Ishii to bring it. Ishii left the ring and then Cobb and Narita celebrated their win together… [C]
Powell’s POV: This match more than accomplished its goal of selling the Ishii vs. Cobb match for next weekend’s show. They gave viewers a taste of the duo in the ring together yet left them wanting more. I’m really looking forward to seeing that one and to see just how strong they book Cobb in his first G1. I don’t have my hopes up for him winning his block, but hopefully NJPW books him to have a good showing.
3. Jay White (w/Gedo) and Chase Owens vs. Yoshi-Hashi and Hirooki Goto. Romero labeled White the most hated man in New Japan. Owens teased throwing his shirt to the crowd, but White stopped him. Hashi made his entrance with the usual blank look on his face, then showed a little personality by playing to the crowd in the ring once he was introduced. Goto wore an “LADOJO” t-shirt with the NJPW logo on the back. Goto will face White on the B Block’s opening night. White teased starting the match with Goto, but he tagged out, then ran in and hit Goto from behind.
At 5:30, Goto applied a single leg crab on Owens. White approached to interfere, but Goto released the hold and took a step toward White, who showed fear by backing down. A short time later, Owens performed some strikes on Goto and gave him a crotch chop while saying “suck it.” Owens picked up a near fall on Goto. Owens had Goto pinned after a move by White, but Hashi broke it up. Owens performed a spinning back elbow on Goto, but then ran into a Hashi clothesline. A short time later, Goto performed his GTR finisher on Owens and pinned him…
Yoshi-Hashi and Hirooki Goto defeated Jay White and Chase Owens in 8:35.
Kelly hyped the six-man tag match as coming up after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: The match was fine with Goto scoring the pin over the man you’d expect him to beat in Owens. There was a little jawing between Goto and a cussing White from the floor afterward to sell their match, but they didn’t really move me in that regard.
4. Jushin Liger, Juice Robinson, and Toru Yano vs. Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi, and Bushi. Kelly noted that Liger will be retiring at the Tokyo Dome in January. Romero labeled him a living legend, which is more than fair. Juice wore a green outfit with red stripes and a matching hat that made him look like he was paying tribute to the Keebler elf. Kelly said Naito is a heavy favorite to win this year’s B Block. Kelly also pointed out that Naito and Takagi are both in the B Block and therefore will meet during the tournament.
Liger started the match and the live crowd responded favorably. Liger got the better of Bushi to start, but Bushi’s Los Ingobernables sidekicks interfered while the ref was distracted. Bushi made a play for Liger’s mask, then tagged in Naito, who put Liger in a sleeper. A short time later, Robinson and Takagi ended up the ring to preview their upcoming match. Takagi avoided the Juice Box. Robinson ducked a clothesline and performed a full nelson bomb for a two count.
After a brief exchange, Naito and Yano tagged in to preview their upcoming match. Yano removed a turnbuckle pad. Naito gave Yano a neckbreaker and tagged in Bushi, who performed a missile dropkick on Yano. The LIJ trio worked over Yano and Bushi had him pinned, but Liger broke it up. Once the illegal men were out of the ring, Yano performed a low blow on Bushi while the referee was facing the other way and then rolled him up and pinned him…
Jushin Liger, Juice Robinson, and Toru Yano beat Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi, and Bushi in 8:20.
Kelly hyped the beginning of the tournament matches for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: The match dedicated some attention to previewing the Naito vs. Yano and Robinson vs. Takagi matches for next weekend, but the real attraction was Liger. The crowd has been very vocal throughout the show thus far and they were especially excited to see the 54 year-old Liger on his retirement tour. The fans popped for Yano winning, but I think they would have come unglued had Liger scored the pin. The tag matches are over. Bring on the good stuff.
After the break, the broadcast team set up a video that hyped Fighting Spirt Unleashed tour. They announced Septmeber 27 in Lowell, Massachusetts at Lowell Memorial Auditorium, September 28 in New York at the Hammerstein Ballroom with Tiger Hattori’s retirement countdown. Hattori was shown sitting on a couch and he said the top stars will be there. The final date of the weekend is September 29 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at 2300 Arena. Tickets for all shows are on sale July 26…
Powell’s POV: It’s great to see NJPW run these key eastern cities. Where tonight’s event is playing in a bigger venue than they needed, I suspect that the demand for the smaller venues for the Fighting Spirit Unleashed tour is going to be incredible. By the way, I don’t believe there was any sign of Ring of Honor (unless I missed a graphic) being part of this tour, which is interesting.
5. Will Ospreay vs. Lance Archer in an A Block tournament match. Hattori was the referee for the match. Archer had a long red mohawk and wore a leather outfit to the ring. Archer hit some young lions at ringside while making his entrance. Once Ospreay was in the ring, Archer charged him and ended up taking a Spanish Fly. The bell rang to start the match. Ospreay continued with a quick flurry and got a near fall, which riled up the crowd. Ospreay sent Archer to ringside and went for a handspring dive, but Archer was waiting for him and ended up chokeslamming him through a table for a big pop. Romero said Archer meant business in his hometown.
Back inside the ring, Archer was the aggressor for a stretch. Ospreay fired back with forearms, which Archer shrugged off. Archer stuck his jaw out for another. Ospreay kicked him, but Archer no sold it and clotheslined him. Ospreay came back with a running/spinning kick. Ospreay performed a 619 and followed with a springboard forearm that resulted in a two count. Ospreay came back with a shoulder block that knocked Ospreay across the ring. Archer performed a buckle bomb followed by a powerbomb. Archer kicked Ospreay to ringside and then powerbombed him onto the ring apron at 9:30.
Archer brought Ospreay up the entrance aisle while the broadcast team noted that the same number of tournament points are awarded for wins by count-out or disqualifications. Archer went for a Last Ride style powerbomb, but Ospreay countered into a Code Red at the bottom of the ramp. Back in the ring, Ospreay performed a shooting star press for a near fall. Ospreay went for his finisher, but Archer stuffed it. Ospreay went for OsCutter again and got a near fall. Ospreay, who had blood coming out of one nostril, expressed shock that he didn’t get the pin with his finishing move.
Archer caught Ospreay with a punch and then performed a muscle buster for a near fall. Archer performed his Blackout finisher, but Ospreay kicked out. Kelly said Ospreay is the only man who has ever kicked out of the move. Archer applied a claw hold while Kelly noted that it was the Von Erichs finisher in Dallas. Ospreay got to the ropes to break it. Archer barked that he would “f— up” Hattori just before the ring announcer noted that they were 15 minutes into the match. Archer took Ospreay to the ropes, where Ospreay performed a Spanish Fly for another near fall. Ospreay set for a Storm Breaker. Archer blocked it. Ospreay kicked him several times. Archer stuffed it again. Ospreay blasted Archer with a kick to the side of the head that knocked him down.
Archer cut off Ospreay on the ropes and followed up behind him. Archer applied a full nelson. Ospreay elbowed his way free and knocked Archer off the ropes with a headbutt. Archer came right back with a knee to the head. Archer performed his Blackout finisher from the middle rope. Archer played to the crowd and then applied an iron claw. Hattori counted the pin…
Lance Archer defeated Will Ospreay in 18:15 in an A Block tournament match.
Kelly hyped Evil vs. Bad Luck Fale for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: Archer debuts a new look and gets a huge win in his hometown. Good for him. This was really good. Ospreay is one of the brightest stars of the company, but part of the fun of the G1 is that there will be upsets in the round robin tournament.
6. Evil vs. Bad Luck Fale in an A Block tournament match. Fale came out wearing a camouflage hat and pants along with a shirt that red “General” on the front. Romero recalled Fale making a mockery of the G1 by taking intentional disqualification losses last year (so why is he back in it this year?). Fale roughed up Evil at ringside and Kelly played up the idea that Fale was willing to take the win via count-out, but Evil returned to the ring to break the count. Fale continued to dominate in the ring. At 4:00, he placed a foot over Evil and saluted while getting a two count.
Evil avoided a charging Fale in the corner, then bodyslammed him at 4:40. Evil took the fight to ringside, wrapped a chair around Fale’s neck, and ran him into the ring post at 6:00. Evil ran into a shoulder block and then Fale followed with a corner splash and then a splash on the fallen Evil for a near fall. Evil recovered and performed a lariat for a two count at 8:35. Evil set up for his finisher, but Fale stuffed it. Fale performed a chokeslam for a two count. Fale set up for a crucifix slam, but Evil slipped away and hit him with a lariat that knocked the referee down. REF BUMP!!!
Evil brought two chairs into the ring and hit Fale with one and wrapped it around Fale’s neck. Evil wound up with the other chair, but Fale stopped it and low blowed him to boos. Fale put a chair around Evil’s neck and then hit it with the other. Fale followed up with his Bad Luck Fall for the win…
Bad Luck Fale defeated Evil in 11:30 in an A Block match.
Kelly hyped Sanada vs. Zack Sabre Jr. for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: Fale and Evil had the tough task of following the Ospreay vs. Archer match. It was good match placement in that the brawling style slowed things down and provided something different. That said, the match was completely forgettable. I had to chuckle over the crowd booing Fale for the low blow just moments after Evil wrapped a chair around the neck of Fale and wanted to hit him with a second chair.
7. Sanada vs. Zack Sabre Jr. in an A Block tournament match. Sabre wore the Rev Pro Championship belt to the ring. Romero said Sabre is one of the best tournament wrestlers in the company and possibly the world (how many other promotions do tournaments as frequently as NJPW?). The broadcast team noted that ZSJ’s hype man Taka Michinoku did not make the trip to Dallas. There were a couple of cool quick exchanges that resulted in neither man gaining a distinct advantage. Sanada’s wrist cover fell off, and Sabre kicked it to ringside. Sanada retrieved it while the crowd chanted “New Japan” just before the 5:00 mark.
Sanada pulled Sabre’s hands behind his head. Sabre tried to roll out of it, but Sanada held on. Sabre wiggled his body while moving his hands down, then stepped out of the hold. Sabre stood with his back to Sanada while mugging, then turned and blasted him with a forearm. A short time later, Sanada returned the favor from an earlier moment when Sabre taunted him by holding the ropes open. Sabre declined to enter through the open ropes and instead toyed with the crowd about taking a count-out before returning at the 19 count. Sabre flipped off the fans once he was back in the ring.
Sanada made his second failed attempt at putting Sabre in the Paradise Lock. At 10:00, Sabre applied a cross arm breaker, but Sanada reached the ropes to break it. A short time later, Sabre applied an abdominal stretch, which Sanada broke with a hip toss. Sabre ran the ropes and Sanada leapt over him twice before performing a dropkick. At 12:45, Sanada applied a version of the Paradise Lock in the ropes, then played to the crowd, which responded with cheers. Sanada ran the ropes and kicked Sabre to break the hold and send Sabre to ringside. Sanada brought Sabre back inside the ring and suplexed him for a two count.
At 15:00, Sabre applied an octopus style hold and countered into various holds, including an armbar with while holding his legs around the head of Sanada. Eventually, Sanada reached the ropes to break the hold. The wrestlers got to their feet and exchanged strikes. Sabre ran at Sanada, who caught him and set up for Skull End, but Sabre avoided it and rolled him into his own version of the hold. Sanada powered up with Sabre on his back, but Sabre grapevined him while applying a front facelock. Sanada got his arm free and ended up slamming Sabre down. Sanada hit a TKO for a two count at 18:35.
Sanada went to the ropes for a moonsault. Sabre moved and Sanada landed on his feet. Sanada caught Sabre in a backslide style pin for a near fall. Sabre came right back set up for the Zack Driver, but Sanada avoided it, put his arms around the head of Sabre, and swung him around. At 20:00, Sabre avoided a top rope move and then applied a submission hold. Sanada powered him up to break free of the hold. There was a nice series of counters from the wrestlers that resulted in Sanada on top and bridging while the referee made the three count.
Sanada defeated Zack Sabre Jr. in 21:10 in an A Block match.
After the match, Sabre put the referee in a hold. “The petulant child comes out,” Kelly said. Sabre released the hold and then kicked the barricade at ringside. A young lion handed Sabre his title belt only to be knocked down by Sabre… Kelly hyped Kenta vs. Kota Ibushi for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: A very good match for its style. Sabre’s submission based approach isn’t for everyone, but I think it’s brilliant and really enjoy watching it. Buckle up for the last two matches.
8. Kota Ibushi vs. Kenta in an A Block tournament match. Katsuyori Shibata was shown watching the match while dressed in Kenta’s “Takeover” t-shirt. Red Shoes was the referee. There were dueling chants for the wrestlers followed by a brief “both these guys” chant. Kenta teased backing off a rope break and then slapped Ibushi across the face. Ibushi returned the favor with a hard slap of his own. At 4:00, Kenta had Ibushi over the middle rope, then performed a kneedrop from the middle rope onto the back of his head. The dueling chants started up again.
With Ibushi seated, Kenta blasted him with a running kick. “That is the Kenta of old,” Romero said. Ibushi was face down when Kenta leapt up and teased stomping the back of his head, but he leapt over him instead, then delivered a taunting tap of a kick to the side of Ibushi’s head. At 8:20, Ibushi threw a nice dropkick. The dueling chants started again. Ibushi performed a powerslam, got right up and performed a moonsault from the middle rope for a near fall. Kenta caught Ibushi with a nice leg lariat just before the 10:00 mark.
Kenta performed a top rope clothesline that resulted in a two count. Kelly said Kenta’s strategy was to keep a slow pace while keeping Ibushi grounded. Kenta set up for a tornado DDT from the middle rope, but Ibushi simply spun him around, seated him, and chopped him. Both men fought for position on the ropes and Ibushi ended up knocking Kenta to the apron. Ibushi stood on the bottom rope and grabbed Kenta from behind while putting his own feet on the middle rope for a German suplex attempt. Kenta broke free, but Ibushi knocked him off the apron with a kick. Ibushi went over the top rope and attempted to dive onto Kenta, who caught him with a knee on the way down. Kenta placed Ibushi on over the barricade, then went to the apron and performed a double stomp at 13:50.
Back inside the ring, Kenta performed some running dropkicks in the corner, then went up top and performed a double stomp that led to a near fall. Kenta made the throat slashing gesture. Kenta set up for his GTS finisher, but Ibushi fought free and beat Kenta to the punch with a clothesline. Ibushi performed a sit-out powerbomb for a near fall at 16:35. The dueling chants started again. Ibushi went for a Kamigoye, but Kenta avoided it. Ibushi went for a crucifix pin for a two count. Both men got up and Kenta caught Ibushi with a knee to the head. A “this is awesome” chant started. The wrestlers got to the knees and traded forearms while the broadcast team spoke about it being a test of their fighting spirit. They got to their feet and continued with forearms and kicks, and Kenta landed a high kick that resulted in a near fall at 19:30.
Kenta delivered three kicks to the head, sat up Ibushi, and threw another to his head and then covered him for a near fall. Kenta lowered his left kneepad and performed a GTS and scored the clean pin. After the match, Kenta waited for Ibushi to get to his feet, then they shook hands and hugged…
Kenta defeated Kota Ibushi in 21:55 in an A Block match.
Kelly hyped the main event heading into what was just the latest of many ads for something involving Sammy Hagar… [C]
Powell’s POV: A good dramatic match with a poor looking finishing move. Unfortunately, Kenta’s knee hit Ibushi’s arm and didn’t come close to hitting his head. They also replayed it from the best view possible when they really should have looked for a bad angle to hide it. It’s a shame because this was a strong match. I like the booking with Kenta scoring a huge win over Ibushi early in the tournament. It makes Kenta look like a force in the tournament and also works in terms of putting Ibushi in the position to fight from underneath.
Ring entrances for the main event took place. 2018 G1 tournament winner Hiroshi Tanahashi came out first while the broadcast team played up his and Kazuchika Okada’s rivalry as one of the best in sports. Okada made his entrance wearing the IWGP Heavyweight Championship belt…
9. Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi in an A Block tournament match. Kelly noted that Okada and Tanahashi have had three draws in G1 tournament matches. The fans chanted “holy shit” and then cheered loudly once the bell rang. Okada looked to the crowd and smiled. The fans chanted “New Japan” (very cool moment). The wrestlers locked up and there were dueling chants. Okada backed Tanahashi into the corner and teased hitting him after a rope break only to pat him instead. Tahahashi responded with a forearm to the head.
Okada performed the first big move of the match by performing a dragon screw leg whip, which Kelly noted is straight out of Tanahashi’s playbook. Tanahashi came back with his own dragon screw leg whip. Kelly noted that they were keeping an eye on the time limit due to the history the wrestlers have of going 30 minutes. Kelly also noted that it was Tanahashi’s 18th consecutive G1 tournament (wow). Tanahashi performed a senton from the middle rope for a two count at 10:00.
Tanahashi continued to target the knee of Okada by giving him another dragon screw between the ropes. Tanahashi charged at Okada, who pressed him up and dropped him face first onto the match. Okada went back to selling his right knee. Both men got to their feet and ducked clotheslines. Tanahashi dropkicked Okada’s bad knee. Okada blasted him with a forearm and then performed a backbreaker onto the bad knee, which led to a two count and Okada clutching it afterward. Okada performed a top rope elbow drop. Okada struck the Rainmaker pose, but Tanahashi rolled him into a pin for a near fall. Tanahashi performed an inverted dragon screw, then applied a Texas cloverleaf. Okada reached the ropes to break the hold at 14:30.
With Okada at ringside, Tanahashi went up top and performed a high fly flow cross body block onto him. Tanahashi came up selling right knee pain of his own. Tanahashi got back to his feet and rolled Okada back inside the ring. Okada came back with a dropkick, but Tanahashi knocked him down with a sling blade clothesline. Okada caught him with another dropkick and then a tombstone piledriver. Okada went for the Rainmaker clothesline, but Tanahashi beat him to the punch with a sling blade. Tanahashi went up top and performed another high fly flow cross body block. Tanahashi went to the other former and performed the high fly flow, but Okada put his knees up at 18:05.
At 19:45, Okada held the arm of Tanahashi and pulled him into a clothesline. Okada performed the move again as the timekeeper called out the 20:00 cue. Okada went for the move a third time, but Tanahashi countered into a small package for a great near fall. Tanahashi hit a dragon suplex on Okada into a bridged into a pin for another strong near fall. Okada grabbed the wrist of Tanashi to set up for another clothesline, but Tanahashi broke free with hard slaps to the face. Kelly noted that Okada had a couple of cuts on his upper back. Okada performed a spinning tombstone piledriver and then performed another Rainmaker clothesline and scored the clean pin…
Kazuchika Okada defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi in 22:05 in an A Block match.
Referee Red Shoes handed Okada his belt and then raised his arm afterward. Kelly predicted that the block will likely come down to Okada and Tanahashi. Okada took the mic and yelled in Japanese. The broadcast team noted that he yelled “first win.” Okada noted that he spoke in Japanese and did it again. He said it was the first G1 in America and would not be the last. Okada said they could come back and he would come back as the G1 Tournament winner and the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Okada thanked the cheering crowd and then spoke in Japanese. Okada’s music played and he laid the mic down in the ring. Kelly told viewers that Okada said he would come back to Dallas and make it rain money. Romero said Okada is the greatest IWGP Champion we’ve ever seen.
Powell’s POV: A terrific match. They’ve had longer and better, but I love that they went with a clean finish rather than another tournament draw. The crowd really added to the atmosphere. I love the quiet and respectful Japanese crowds, but it was really fun to see the fans in attendance show so much knowledge and passion for the NJPW product.
Kelly said they would stick with the broadcast and viewers would hear Okada’s post match press conference comments. The fans were shown exiting while Kelly said they were waiting for Okada to get to the press conference area.
Okada sat in front of the a backdrop that was filled with sponsor logos. He spoke in Japanese and a woman translated in English. Okada put over the G1 tournament and encouraged fans to watch despite the time difference.
One person noted that there is a company that Okada used to work for (Impact Wrestling) running a show in Dallas tomorrow. He asked if Okada’s performance was a message in any way. The translator had the man ask the question again. Unfortunately, they cut away before Okada could answer.
The A Block point standings were shown with all of tonight’s tournament match winners earning two points. Kelly plugged that next Saturday’s B Block opening night will air via same day coverage on AXS TV. A video package recapped some of the show highlights and then Kelly signed off… An ad aired for next Saturday’s two-hour special and hyped the Jon Moxley vs. Taichi and Jay White vs. Hirooki Goto matches…
Powell’s POV: I liked that the in-ring action ended after 3.5 hours and they didn’t feel the need to fill out the full four hours that the show was listed for. The post show press conference didn’t really add much, though I do enjoy the sports-like feel that it creates. Overall, this was a really fun show and it’s worth going out out of your way to catch a replay on AXS or once it’s available on New Japan World. Four of the five tournament matches were strong, and it really was cool to see the Okada vs. Tanahashi rivalry continue in front of such an appreciative American crowd. I will have more to say about the show in my members’ exclusive audio review coming up later tonight. Join us via PWMembership.net.
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The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Kenny Herzog discussing his journalism career, his new Outside Interference podcast, doing a feature story on CM Punk, pro wrestling in the pandemic, WWE talk on Retribution, The Hurt Business, Roman Reigns as a heel, and much more...