It is weeks like the one we just had that remind me of the end of the famous “Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling” video where the producer and narrator of the short film Max Landis states rather factually that “a lot of wrestling sucks, but when it’s good it’s fucking great.”
And so it goes in the land of WWE wherein the span of one week from NXT TakeOver 25 to Super Showdown, we went from “this is really, really good” to “a lot of this sucks.”
The NXT TakeOver, The Story’s Over
As I mentioned last week, I feel like NXT gets a lot of extra credit for being this amazing brand within WWE when the reality is that it’s a decent brand with average to good weekly TV and then every quarter or so comes out with amazing weekend events that focus mostly on wrestling and finishing off stories that have been built up over weeks at a time and people rightfully lose their minds over it and remind us all how great wrestling can be, even in a corporate environment such as WWE. (And if you don’t think NXT is as corporate as anything else in the company, I beseech you to watch the Triple H/Wrestlemania week documentary that recently aired on WWEN where he talks about NXT as a brand where gate revenue topping out over a million dollars matters)
The action in the ring, of course, matters a lot. Matt Riddle versus Roderick Strong was a strong, heavy striking opener. The four-way tag ladder match was so much fun that most fans didn’t even seem to mind the appearance of Jaxson Ryker who right now is NXT’s version of Buzz Killington. Those matches told stories as well though and had conclusions. Riddle survived a very tough test and can move forward while Strong will no doubt face consequences from his Undisputed Era mates for not coming through yet again. The Street Profits finally reached the top and now we’ll get to watch them be the hunted rather than the hunters.
Velveteen Dream beats Tyler Breeze and while the match was good and the story they told was fine, as Mr. Nick pointed out, the Dream as champ holding on to his spotlight just doesn’t hold the same allure of Dream as hungry challenger craving a spotlight.
Shayna Baszler continues to be one of the best heels in all of wrestling and if you want to dispute that, please witness how she beat Io Shari clean to retain her title – her two MMA buddies tried to get involved granted, but were stopped before they even got to the ring. Shayna then had the crap beat out of her post-match by an angry and bitter kendo stick welding Sharai and THEN had fans chanting “you deserve it” at her as she crawled out of the ring victorious albeit somewhat broken all because someone ELSE was a poor loser. That’s heat folks. Even when she wins cleanly, it still feels like she’s being a complete asshole about it and we need to hate her for it.
And then speaking of winning clean, we have Adam Cole who is supposed to be the conniving leader of a heel faction – the other three members unable to win their matches earlier in the night – going out on his own and winning the NXT title without nary a shred of cheating or reliance on said stable-mates. (Outside of pretending to wave them in as a way to distract Johnny Gargano, but that’s beside the point) Now we get to move on with Adam Cole as a proven champion who can win on his own, yet leads a group that no one – maybe even Cole himself – is sure he even needs.
At the end of Takeover last Saturday there were the familiar refrains of “why can’t all of WWE be like this?” to which the answer is, “it just can’t” and that’s mostly because each TakeOver we get closure or the end of chapters and then they move on back to regular weekly TV where they begin a build yet again to the next big show happening in a couple of months with about seven to eight hourly shows in-between.
WWE’s main rosters meanwhile have mere weeks – sometimes less than a month – between its big shows and needs to fill at least 25 hours of the show in between each of those events, so they can’t afford to end chapters or close out stories outright and the product suffers because of it.
The Go-Home Shows To A Show Too Far From Home
This week’s builds in both RAW and Smackdown were heavily focused on Super ShowDown in Saudi Arabia taking place later in the week. At the very least they were both better shows than the previous week as RAW at least started almost right away with wrestling action in the form of an actual match between Roman Reigns and the Usos vs Revival and Drew McIntyre which was pretty good but maybe seemed better than it was because again, it wasn’t a bunch of badly scripted promos and sketches that we had to sit through to start off the show with.
From there we get things like Lacey Evans and Charlotte Flair exchanging hostile words before having a match, and Rey Mysterio just outright just dropping the US Championship back to Samoa Joe without a challenge or a fight (outside of Joe beating him up yet again) and if these things felt rushed or hastily done, it’s because they were because they were.
Smackdown felt more promo and video package heavy than usual, but at least it featured a fun tag match in New Day versus Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn and a really good three-way match between Charlotte Flair, Carmella and Alexa Bliss – the funny part being that all but one of the seven people featured in those two matches were not to be a major part of Super ShowDown.
The shows are fine, but because everything feels slammed together in some cases – Flair vs Evans for the first time with little to no build – or repeated ad nauseam – Brock Lesnar for a third week in a row teasing a briefcase cash in – it feels like it takes away from the build of the weekend shows that should be much bigger, but as Super Showdown did, just felt like a super-sized edition of their weekly TV shows.
Part two to follow