By Haydn Gleed, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@haydngleed)
-Kevin Owens was by far the best thing that happened on either Raw or Smackdown this week. His version of a “pipebomb” was well done and gave a much needed boost in the arm to the KO character that had been fledgling since his return from injury earlier in the year. I liked the small details that made it feel real. Although CM Punk’s original was a lot of fun and to this day still stands up as a stand out moment, I always felt that it went on too long and too choreographed to give it that real feeling of realism. With Owens, he talked quickly to ensure he got out everything he wanted to say and he found a way to carry on his tirade even after Shane McMahon had his mic turned off.
This excellent segment doesn’t escape criticism and it has nothing to do with Owens. The Shane character is on both television shows way too much and he is now involved in three feuds. The Undertaker treating him like he is truly “the best in the world” is nauseating. The simple reason he is in so many feuds is that WWE doesn’t have many strong heels, which is a complaint we come back to over and over again. Something has to change and soon. I do have this nagging fear that the Owens’ pipebomb is a smokescreen and on Sunday it will be revealed that it was a ruse when he turns on the babyfaces and ends up siding with the McMahon. I really hope I’m wrong.
-I can’t say that I’m terribly excited about Extreme Rules. It’s a card of two halves for me where there are some matches that I’m really looking forward to (Cesaro vs. Aleister Black, Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss vs. Bayley, and AJ Styles vs. Ricochet) and there’s some that I just have no interest in at all (Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch vs. Baron Corbin and Lacey Evans, and Brawn Strowman vs. Bobby Lashley). The best thing about WWE Network specials is that even when the shows leading up to the show are not great, the matches usually exceed expectations, so we will see how it goes on Sunday.
-AEW’s Fight For The Fallen looks good on paper. They have a number of matchups that will satisfy different types of wrestling fans. They will need to pick a direction of what they want AEW to be known for over the long term, but their current approach is smart in terms of bring ing in fans this early in the build of the promotion. Jimmy Havoc, Darby Allin and Joey Janela vs. MJF, Sammy Guevara, and Shawn Spears is going to be crazy when you consider the hardcore wrestlers involved in this contest. Cody and Dustin Rhodes vs. The Young Bucks will be a mix of storytelling and some crowd pleasing spots. If Brie Priestley faces off against Britt Baker, I believe it will open up a lot of people’s eyes as to how good both women are. Adam Page vs. Kip Sabin is the match that I’m most invested in because I want to see how much they give Kip and whether he can perform on the same level as Page. After the disaster that was World of Sport finished, Sabian was one of only two people who made a good impression on me. Sabian has decent cruiserweight in-ring ability and he showed a lot of promise behind the mic on WOS, so I’m looking forward to how he performs in this match and if that enhances him with his long term prospects in AEW.
-I hate myself, but I’m getting a massive kick from the Drake Maverick WWE 24/7 Title run. It has become a guilty pleasure of mine just as Rockstar Spud was a guilty pleasure back in his TNA days. Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t see the 24/7 Title being anywhere near the answer to the long term problems of WWE’s booking, but as a small amount of comic relief during an otherwise arduous five-hour chore that is Raw and Smackdown feels welcomes.
-Evolve is being showcased on WWE Network on Saturday and I’m wondering whether this is a live test by WWE of their tiering system. If they get decent to good numbers, I feel WWE will start the long awaited network tiering sooner rather than later. I suspect their live viewers will take a hit from the AEW event at the same time, but I also believe most people who are knowledgable of NXT/Evolve/Indies will do what I’m doing by watching AEW live and then watching Evolve on demand afterward.
-Although it’s been on the network for a while, I only managed to watch the Alexa Bliss 365 documentary this week and I really enjoyed it. It makes you look at her in a different light. And while I can listen to the argument that a heel shouldn’t be featured in a feel-good story documentary that makes her look sympathetic, in 2019 most of the people who watch the documentary will know the difference between a character and real life. This definitely gets a recommendation from me.
-Two big names on the UK Independent scene announced their retirement from the ring this week due to injuries. Charlie Morgan, who has wrestled on WWE NXT UK TV, injured her ankle on the final day of a Shimmer tour in the United States in April and has been advised by doctors to retire. Jack Sexsmith also announced his retirement due to a serious knee injury. Both wrestlers had brief careers yet made an incredibly influential impact on the UK Independent scene with both being open with their sexuality in an industry that still has someway to go to be fully inclusive.
Morgan was the first openly gay female wrestler in the UK and Jack Sexsmith is pansexual. The crowds embraced both without blinking and has made it easier for wrestlers of the LGBT community to be accepted. Morgan had that special something to go all the way in NXT UK, so it’s disappointing on the missed potential of some of the matchups we could have seen. Although Sexsmith wasn’t the biggest or greatest in-ring performer, he was the lovable plucky underdog. For years Jack would make his entrance and kiss members of both sexes in the audience and would wrestle in a manner that said he was just happy to be having fun regardless of whether he won or lost.
Progress released a video before a Super Strong 16 tournament in 2017 where he said he is still the fun-loving guy, but it was important to him that he took things more seriously for the fans who look up to him. With that change in persona, he was more focused in the ring and in the way he wrestled, and the crowd bought into the journey. It looked at that point that he was going to get a mega push in Progress but he was injured, and it seems he’s been sidelined more than he’s been active over the last few years. Here’s wishing both the best going forward.
Check below for the latest Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast With Jason Powell featuring guest Jim Ross discussing his role in AEW, Tony Khan as a leader, whether Ross knew Shawn Spears was going to hit Cody with a chair shot to the head, working with Excalibur and Alex Marvez, his new book and speaking engagement deal, and much more.