I’ve been a bit under the weather lately, which meant that I was unable to watch almost all wrestling available to us fans on the day they were broadcast. The silver lining however, was that I caught up on everything I’d missed in a matter of hours thanks to on-demand TV, the WWE Network and social media. It was a lot to digest, but thank God for fast-forward is all I can say. The advantage to speeding through WWE and other shows at breakneck speed is that one can appreciate the best and worst it has to offer as they resonate in your mind for a while. Some weeks ago I tried something new with ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’, and although it was fun to write, it’s too gimmicky to do weekly – plus calling someone or something ‘ugly’ is by its very nature, a little mean, isn’t it?
With that being said, I’ll try something similar but different at the same time and look at my personal ‘Highlights’ and ‘Low Points’ from what the wacky world of professional wrestling had to offer, coupled with my musings on the various points. Feel free to comment, critique or trash. They’re just my opinions and I like to share.
Low Point – Super Showdown & the Almighty Dollar
It’s been said before, and I fully understand, that WWE’s reasons for holding huge shows in Saudi Arabia are purely for $, $ and more $. It’s reported that WWE signed a $450 million, ten-year deal to host annual events in Saudi Arabia, and from a purely business point of view, they would be silly not to. The money they earn from one show per year in a foreign climb outweighs what they earn for a Wrestlemania. Forbes reported that WWE earned $16.9 million from this year’s mania, whereas if the reports of the Saudi shows are accurate, they made $45 million from the Super Showdown alone. That’s huge money.
My beef isn’t that WWE is earning massive revenue, my issue is that if the event is WWE’s biggest payday on the calendar, surely they should offer an event worth watching? The non-inclusion of the female WWE stars aside (although it’s a very relevant point and argument), the event is seen by many fans – and likely talent – as nothing more than a cash grab. Turn up, put on a match, go home and count the money. Wrestlers can call themselves ‘retired’ all they want, but when a prince says ‘name your price’ for another match, you get The Undertaker vs Goldberg as a main event. And what a main event that was (sigh). I’m not going to dump on either guy, as they’re both legends in the business and God knows they’ve earned the right to be paid mega-bucks for a one-off show, but WWE should know better than to pin all their hype on those two guys. The Super Showdown, however it’s viewed by WWE should be a one-off special, hosting some dream matches, some open challenges, matches that bookers haven’t tried out before. If they flop, then who cares, but they may just click and WWE can then try it again when their regular programming and PPVs are on the horizon.
High Point – The Evergreen Chris Jericho Continues to Blossom
I think myself and the many wrestling writers around the internet are running out of superlatives to describe Chris Jericho. I’ve waxed lyrical about him many a time on this site and many more praise him to this day. Whether it’s his ability to evolve as a performer, his incredible promo work or his ability to continue to churn out high-quality matches, the man is solidifying his place as a true great – not just in the modern era but of all time.
I didn’t necessarily ‘worry’ about his career when he left WWE, but I did think that perhaps he wouldn’t get as much exposure as he would with his former company, and it’s safe to say I had nothing to worry about at all. His return to NJPW only served to prove that he hadn’t lost his ability and only got better as his experience and natural talent propelled him to the top of any card he was on. He’s been allowed to revel in his heel persona – easily his best work, no matter what company he worked in. His arrival in AEW and not being the figurehead for the company – that’s been reserved for Cody Rhodes – has given Jericho some wonderful creative freedom. From his interactions on Twitter, to his cross-brand matches, he’s become more relevant than ever. Even when WWE tried to neuter him in a small way, by nixing WWE talent from his podcast, Jericho wasn’t put off and continued to put out great content, now free from the shackles of WWE and able to talk openly and honestly about his thoughts alongside former WWE colleagues or AEW talent. He’s led the charge against WWE, by taking pot-shots at his former employers, but always with the promotion of AEW or NJPW in mind, and always careful not to trash his former friends in the process. His recent NJPW promo below just emphasizes how great this man is, and I can’t get enough.
Replay 'DOMINION 6.9 in OSAKA-JO HALL' (Jun 9th, 2019) post-match videos on #NJPWWorld!! Watch FREE▶︎https://t.co/Tj7UBJ4PjP#njpw 6月9日(日) #njdominion のバックステージを公開!!
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) June 10, 2019
Low Point – The Women’s Tag Division & Brand Crossovers
Not the tag division itself, but the lack of investment being put into it. With Bayley as a defending champion in her own right, and Becky Lynch giving the rub to the relatively new Lacey Evans, the Women’s Tag Belts should be on the mind of the WWE writers when it comes to their stories, but alas, it seems to be an afterthought once again. There are 26 women listed on WWE’s main roster – not including any in NXT, current main title holders Becky, Bayley and The Iconics or any female non-wrestling talent like Stephanie McMahon or Renee Young. Twenty Six superstars and WWE are struggling to write coherent feuds for the belts many have been crying to be re-introduced for years.
What’s even more frustrating about this scenario is that the Women’s Tag Titles were brought in to be a cross-brand title, meaning that the champions would appear on both Raw and Smackdown – something many fans were behind as having two sets of belts (one on each show) would’ve been too much. The idea being that each show would have a few tag teams that would be challengers for the champions in the year ahead. This just hasn’t got the traction it deserves, and while The Iconics aren’t my favorite tag team out there, they’re being reduced to bit-part players who this week faced off against a couple of jobbers for an easy victory in just over a minute. Seriously? Twenty six possible opponents, WWE.
The cross-brand ideas appear to have been shifted from the female talent to the men and it isn’t working. Sure, it’s great to see Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn as often as we can on TV, but we were told that the shows were going to be separate and cross-brand matches saved for PPVs. One of Survivor Series’ biggest selling points was that it pitted shows against one other. Superstars who rarely, if ever, faced one another in a WWE ring. Separated because of the brand split. WWE appear to make it up as they go along and don’t stick to their own set of rules or decisions. It can be very confusing for the watching audience.
High Point – Chad Gable on 205 Live
An unexpected, if welcome, highlight for the week came from the noise on social media for Chad Gable’s 205 Live match this week against Gentleman Jack Gallagher. I checked it out and liked it a lot. There’s no doubt that Gable is a top talent, so perhaps this new look and change of scenery can help him kick on in the weeks ahead.
The reaction to Gable’s match typifies one of the ongoing issues WWE has in signing high-level talent to their books, but offering them limited opportunities. Sure, Gable had a somewhat successful run as one half of American Alpha on the main roster, but many fans felt they continued to be filler for other tag team feuds or that their potential was never really tapped into. Gable always appeared to be on the periphery of WWE’s thinking. Do we put that down to his lower ranking in the pecking order? His smaller stature or just bad luck? If recent events have taught us anything, it’s that WWE are moving away from the traditional ‘big man’ wrestling (just look at the terrible booking for Braun Strowman) and hopefully embracing the ‘smaller’ talent they have. Ali and Ricochet, both world-class athletes, are being allowed to shine on the main shows and PPVs and get regular air time alongside the Seth Rollins’ and AJ Styles’ of the company. I hope this is a new beginning for Gable and if it means hanging out on 205 Live for a little while, I really hope he gets the chance to have a decent singles run on the main roster. I believe he would transcend really well with younger fans in WWE if given a fresh start.
Well, there you have it. Four points I wanted to highlight from this past week of wrestling. What were your highlights and low points? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, thanks for reading.