Hello AW Universe,
Welcome to WEEKLY GOODS, a Friday thoughts blog that looks at the best and the worst from the week that was in the world of pro wrestling, looking at WWE, NXT, AEW, and NWA.
Well, I’ll just start off by stating the obvious: the TakeOver: Portland card was fucking amazing. Unfortunately, the fallout episode of NXT, well… sucked. The heat that once defined Full Sail is gone, making it the clearly secondary show to Dynamite. They had all the opportunity to own this week’s Wednesday Night War, but simply dropped the ball coming out of the PPV Not only did they fail to feature the two competitors who had the best match from bell-to-bell in Finn Bálor and Johnny Gargano (the biggest babyface), but they failed to feature Charlotte Flair, Rhea Ripley, and Bianca Belair all in meaningful ways.
But they did all this knowing what AEW had booked. Their competition has a habit of showing a week in advance what essentially will be their full card; NXT knew that AEW would have their inaugural Steel Cage match with one of their top babyfaces, and the debut of an indie darling, and a tag team championship match with four of AEW’s best workers.
This isn’t to say that Dynamite is perfect by any means. There are some character storytelling choices that are just bizarre– Britt Baker (DID YOU KNOW SHE’S A DENTIST?!?) and Tony Schiavone are flirting? Kenny Omega is toiling as a tag team champion? Sammy Guevara is supposed to be taken seriously? And honesty, the show itself wasn’t anything to write home about, and I wonder if Cody hadn’t hit the moonsault spot if there would be high praise for it. But he did, and pro wrestling lore is built on spots more than segments or full length matches.
This all tells me one of two things: either Triple H fucked up, or he couldn’t care less about what AEW is doing and is perfectly fine just doing what he wants. You, the reader, may choose your reality.
All that being said, this TakeOver was so good and the competitors on that card will dominate these rankings.
Some other thoughts:
Becky Lynch wears a championship title belt like a goddamn legend, and the only reason why the best professional wrestler in the business isn’t (spoiler alert!) on this week’s rankings is two-fold: 1) she didn’t wrestle; and 2) there just wasn’t enough cash in that bag. I’m such a fan of the overly-cocky Champion Lynch character, but if you’re going to do it then lean all the way in to it; there just simply had to be more bills in that bag.
But she made a good point: RAW needs to be more violent. And it might be going in that direction. It was one thing for Randy Orton to one man Con-Chair-to Edge during the last segment of RAW after Royal Rumble, but it felt very different when he did the same thing to Matt Hardy during the first segment of the show this past week. There was a mixed reaction from the crowd, with a large segment of them chanting “one more time,” feeling like the heel heat on Orton was completely robbed. But it’s not because they were confused, or trying to hijack the show, but because they were so jacked up to see some so… well, raw, on a show that has never promised nor delivered on something so edgy in a long time; they were’t cheering for Orton, they were cheering for savagery. And that’s okay. That’s what pro wrestling is all about. Monday Night RAW is the best pro wrestling show on television.
No NWA Powerrr this week, as they launch their new development show, The Circle Squared, but hopefully they’re back strong next week.
Okay. Rankings time.
The rankings are based off of the past week of performances of both in-ring and promo work, and how that projects going forward. Yes, these are biased. The Young Bucks will never be on this list.
On the Cusp: Becky Lynch, Jon Moxley, Kenny Omega, Pac, Kevin Owens,
Look, her heel run as SmackDown Women’s Champion hasn’t been perfect. In fact, it’s been a bit of a let down. But what Bayley does better than most heels in WWE right now are the subtle things, the things that make a person like Randy Orton (more on him in a bit) stand out above the rest. The way she walks to the ring, and interacts with the fans and heels off on them, making it clear that she’s moving Carmella closer to the ropes so she can win with chickenshit heel tactics… it’s all brilliant.
That being said, the way she wears the belt is fucking stupid. I get that she’s trying to be different and alt an all that, but it’s idiotic.
9. Teagan Nox
She went into TakeOver: Portland as the babyface against her former-best-friend-turned-blood-rival into a hardcore-style match… so was destined to loss via Fate o’ Booking. Despite that, she took a vicious unprotected shot from a trashcan lid, and mounted some aggressive offence of her own.
8. Dakota Kai
All of the above, plus sealing the win. But not only that, Kai didn’t run in this match as the heel; she ate a jackknife German Suplex through a trashcan, took the punches with the steel chain to her knee, and sold the injury to being shoved onto the table. She gets the bump simply because she’s the heel and won the match.
7. Randy Orton
Simply, this short program with Matt Hardy is brilliant. It’s so good, in fact, that I’m not entirely convinced that Hardy’s actually leaving WWE… (but the UNKILLABLE one certainly is, right?). Either way, Orton is dialled into this program, and it makes at his absolutely best. The opening segment of Monday Night RAW was over 20 minutes, but it was compelling. Orton is at his best when he’s fully invested, and if Matt Hardy is indeed on his way out, then he’s doing it like a total professional.
Plus, Orton’s always in ring gear. Segment 1 or 8, match or not, he’s always fully ready to go, so whenever you think that, “Randy doesn’t give a shit” remember that.
6. Tomasso Ciampa
He should’ve won the NXT title from Cole at TakeOver, but was robbed. Brilliant building of babyface heat. He then made an appearance on the next TV spot to utter the ominous, “not tonight,” line to Austin Theory before calling out the absent Gargano and then beating the shit out of Theory, setting up a match between the two next week.
5. The BroserWeights
These guys are just fun, put in their best match as a tag team, and won the titles on a loaded card. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.
4. Johnny Gargano
Not entirely sure I’m in on the heel turn, but I’ll go with it since he’s such a compelling character. Plus, he was involved in the best match on the TakeOver: Portland card. Triple H chose to hold him off of this week’s NXT, a decision which I’m torn about, but it does built heel heat for when he does eventually return.
3. Finn Bálor
Going back to NXT was the best thing for “The Prince” and his career. He and Gargano had the best match on the card at TakeOver: Portland, he picked up the win, and continued to heel off in such a brutal way on Gargano after the match, choking him and slapping him off, that it may have forced Gargano into his own heel turn. Regardless, Bálor consistently delivers incredible character work and in-ring perfection; his NXT title run will be amazing.
2. Keith Lee
The hottest wrestler on the NXT by a long shot: he gets the biggest pop, the most sustained chants, and he picked up two wins this week: defending his North American Championship against Dominik Dijakovic at TakeOver: Portland and squashing Kona Reeves on the fallout episode. Bask in his glory because he is truly limitless.
He bladed. He moonsaulted off a Steel Cage. And he won. Cody has decided to book himself into ever hope and top babyface spot, and it’s perfect for business. There has been so much perfect build up and booking towards his match against MJF at Revolution that you just hope it all lives up to expectation.