By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
And so, as someone who writes a weekly piece for a wrestling website, I’d be remiss if I didn’t spend this week taking a look at what I believe are the five biggest surprises that came out of the last few days, what they mean moving forward, and how this could potentially reset a few things as crowds come back into the building. Because there’s only so much you can do to reinvent yourself if you decide to go from “No Way Jose” to “No Way” for no real good reason.
But I digress. Let’s have a look.
On the Boom last week, I went in hard on the fact that with all the teasing Impact did regarding Mickie James, the company sure would be letting its fanbase down if she didn’t show up Saturday night. Oddly enough, she did, but not quite in the capacity a lot of us thought she would, as she waited until after the Knockouts title match to confront Deonna Purrazzo, rather than compete in it as Purrazzo’s mystery opponent.
Fair play to everybody involved, I suppose, but if you’re lucky enough to have Thunder Rosa appear on your pay-per-view, I still can’t quite understand why you wouldn’t want to promote her ahead of time. She’s one of the best in the world right now and a Purrazzo vs. Rosa match would have truly been something to highlight going into the proceedings. Alas, it was not to be.
Still, I guess we can argue that we got a two-for-one special because James still showed up and Rosa was still great. It does make you wonder how honest James was, though, when she insisted she would not be wrestling at NWA’s Empowerrr event next month. Since everybody’s playing nice with each other now, there’s money in a Purrazzo vs. James encounter for the Knockouts Title at the event, but perhaps we’ll get something bigger (Purrazzo vs. Britt Baker?).
My biggest question comes in the form of how involved James is going to be with Impact moving forward. Being on Impact TV is good promotion for the NWA event in theory, but will she stick around beyond that? Will she wrestle a lot? Will she wrestle at all? Will she get a title run? Her presence certainly adds star power to the show as well as Impact’s women’s division — a division that’s becoming sneaky stacked, by the way — but exactly how involved she’ll be remains to be seen. Either way, color me intrigued.
THE PRINCE IS BACK
Lost in the shuffle of a hectic weekend was Finn Balor’s return to the main roster when he appeared on Smackdown to take out Sami Zayn. I loved it. I also love the prospect of a Sami Zayn vs. Balor feud. Or an eventual Balor vs. Roman Reigns feud. Or a Balor vs. Apollo Crews feud (by the way, where the hell is the Intercontinental Title these days?). Or, as you can see, any feud that has Balor in it.
That’s because if nothing else, this feels like the restart Balor has needed ever since he won the WWE Universal Title and then promptly got injured and had to drop it. I never quite understood his inclusivity gimmick because I never really heard him talk much about it (don’t get me wrong; I’m all about inclusivity, but where exactly did that persona come from?). Plus, it sure does feel like it’s been light years since we’ve seen the Demon, and I love me some Demon.
So, in some ways, maybe the NXT excursion was the beginning of a rehabilitation process that can finally be realized back on the biggest stage WWE offers. I hope so, at least. He got his bad-ass-ness back while working as what I think was a tweener in NXT, and he had some great matches in the process of doing so, too. I’ve always thought he’s a picture-perfect Intercontinental Champion, but I wouldn’t complain about seeing him in the main title picture, either. I just hope this isn’t going to be a smiling Irishman who ends up on an episode of WWE Main Event in two months.
For now, though, let’s do something radical and be optimistic.
A HOT MESS (PART TWO)
Yeah, the same sub-headline, one week later for the same wrestler, one week later. Six days after announcing she was taking her talents to Baltimore, Maryland, Chelsea Green packed them back up and took them straight to Nashville, Tennessee. While it was fun to see her team with her fiancé, and I’m all for seeing wrestling relationships prosper and work and end up happily ever after, I do still stand by what I wrote last week when I said that heading to Impact does feel a little reductive for Green.
Why? Because Impact seems to be becoming the Island of Rejected Low-Card WWE’ers. Some of it has worked well for those talents (Brian Myers and Eric Young come to mind), but some of it, not so much. Green felt like a good fit for AEW, which has a women’s division that’s getting better, but could use someone like Green, who could inject some more life into it, especially with a certain dentist as the company’s champ.
Who knows, though. With the way everyone works together now, maybe we’ll see Green pop up on Wednesday night and she’ll be the belle of the ball when it comes to wrestling outside of WWE. Either way, I was under the impression that she was ditching the Hot Mess thing after her promo at Best In The World last Sunday. That said … well, it kind of felt like the Hot Mess thing was back on Saturday in Impact. Does this mean she’ll have different personas in different companies? Does this even mean she’ll be at Impact full-time? Maybe this was a one-off and a chance to get in the ring as her life partner’s tag-team partner.
If so, kudos to her. If not, I’ll be watching with a skeptical eye as her career unfolds. Predictability in wrestling is double-edged. Sometimes, the right thing to do is the most predictable thing to do, and when companies or talents focus too much on the swerve, the storytelling and careers can become muddied. Chelsea Green ending up back in Impact was and is the most predictable thing that could have happened to both the company and the talent here. Whether or not things get muddy from here, only time can tell.
Bullet Club, meet … Bullet Club. Both sets of fans got fun stuff this weekend — the ones who quench all their wrestling thirst via WWE’s programming, and the ones who would refinance a mortgage on a house with Conrad Thompson in order to pay for an All Out ticket. If you happen to fall in both categories, you had a pretty great weekend.
“Switchblade” Jay White appeared at the end of Slammiversary and in a lot of ways, set up a whole bunch of questions to be asked. This, by the way, is on top of him being one of the top-tier performers in the world and, not to mention, he’s also the NEVER Openweight Champion for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Oh, I left something out? That’s right.
White is the current leader of the Bullet Club. The same Bullet Club that Kenny Omega, the man White confronted, led before he did. And so it goes.
First, the tiny nitpick: I’m excited for Impact because this could be a hell of an angle to work, but that was a small crowd, a small production, a small room. Can you imagine if in front of one of those hot AEW crowds, the lights went out and when they came back on, White was standing in the ring, staring down Omega? Hoooooooooo boy, they’d be hanging from the rafters, as someone used to say.
Now, to the questions. Does this mean a war between two Bullet Clubs? Will this spill into AEW in any way? Is this a short-term program, only designed to showcase White and Omega? If it is, Impact hit the lottery because I’m always trying to rattle my brain to figure out who on the Impact roster Omega is going to work with next. Then, finally, a potentially overlooked inquiry: Is the NEVER Openweight Championship Omega-bound as he continues to collect belts?
A lot to consider here, but even I, someone who has almost entirely soured on the inter-promotional stuff, am excited to see what comes next. And Impact, sometimes in spite of itself, continues to provide compelling content.
YOU CAN SEE HIM
You know how you know someone is simply on another level in pro wrestling? When your comeback happens to be the worst-kept secret in all the land, and it still pops the ever-loving s— out of everyone in sight. There’s the Taz in MSG pop. There’s the Jericho debut pop. There’s the Edge at the Royal Rumble pop. And now, ladies and gentlemen, there’s the Cena at Money In The Bank pop.
Even those who’ve never been impressed by him, never bought into the stardom, never cared for his in-ring work, don’t particularly think he’s as good of a talker as others believe he is … just come on, guys. The most cynical cynic couldn’t look at that entrance Sunday night and not feel like all was right with the world, now that fans are back in wrestling arenas and John Cena is pulling a towel out of his back jean-shorts pocket. It was more symbolic than anything.
No, nobody expects him to beat Roman Reigns at SummerSlam. No, we aren’t all giggles and butterflies to see him pop up at a Smackdown here or there. So what? It was such a fun moment and the crowd went absolutely bonkers as a result of it, so why ruin the joy? I’ve come to conclude one thing about two certified stars I’ve never fully understood and those certified stars are John Cena and Randy Orton. That conclusion?
We’re going to miss them when they’re gone.
Orton has stepped even further beyond that in my eyes, as Raw has been a tough show to digest in recent memory, but he’s been very consistent in oftentimes being involved in the best thing on the program (unless it involves setting someone on fire, but you know what I mean). His star-power has been a crutch that the company has been leaning on too much over the last couple years, and he’s elevated a whole ton of people.
Cena? Yeah, I think Cena gets the joke. I think he understands his place within the WWE fanbase and I don’t think for a second he takes any of it too seriously. And as we saw Sunday night, his star-wattage will never not light up stadiums whenever it needs to light up stadiums. Even though Roman Reigns doesn’t really need a rub from anyone else, pairing him with John Cena instantly puts him in a position that makes headlining SummerSlam feel next-level special in the mainstream.
Cena can do that to a match, a wrestler, an event. That’s rarified air these days, friends. So, even if you hate the guy, you gotta respect him. And judging from his reaction Sunday night, even the head of the table knows that.