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Figure Four Weekly 5/15/2017: Looking ahead to WWE's weekend in Chicago

Looking Ahead To WWE's Weekend In Chicago

by Joseph Currier (@josephcurrier)

With the Allstate Arena set to host NXT TakeOver: Chicago on Saturday and Backlash on Sunday, this weekend may be one of WWE's biggest of the year that doesn't include one of their four signature pay-per-views.

There are things to look forward to on both cards. All four title matches at TakeOver should deliver on some level, with Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne boosting a show that probably would have still been fine without it.

A lot of the discussion about Backlash has focused on Jinder Mahal getting a shot at the WWE Championship, but Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles and the televised main roster in-ring debut of Shinsuke Nakamura will probably make it more interesting than most brand-exclusive PPVs regardless of what's at the top of the card.

Both shows have matches that could end up stealing the weekend. They also have the common theme of a lot being at stake for wrestlers at both events. There are legitimate opportunities for people to either improve or solidify their place in WWE.

Mahal getting a shot at Randy Orton's title exemplifies that most. Whether you agree with his push or not, it won't be difficult to tell whether it was a success or not by the end of Sunday night. It's a type of sink-or-swim moment that rarely happens in WWE. Without much build, Mahal is going from someone who was essentially a jobber to main eventing a PPV for his brand's top title.

He has yet to impress much with his in-ring abilities, though he's never gotten a real chance to either. His match against Orton could fall flat and end his push (whether it's planned to be a long-term thing or not). Or he could get legitimate heat, put on a solid main event, and carve out a role for himself on a roster that needs more credible heels.

With all that Mahal has to prove at Backlash, the stakes may be even higher for Hideo Itami the night prior. His main event against Bobby Roode will only be his third match ever at a TakeOver special. The last time that he wrestled at one was against Tyler Breeze in February of 2015. That feels like a lifetime ago with all that has happened since.

Itami's time in WWE has been marred by injuries. Despite being such an influential wrestler over the course of his career, he has yet to fully connect in NXT even when healthy. Whether that's a reflection of how good he is at this point in time or if he's just had trouble adapting after leaving Japan isn't entirely known. He's been derailed whenever he's shown any hope of gaining momentum.

Nearly three years after signing with WWE and being brought in as an initial marquee signing of the Network era of NXT, Itami is finally getting an opportunity to main event a big show. With him turning 36 earlier this year, there would be no better time to put on a breakout performance. The NXT roster may be too crowded for him to get this chance again if he doesn't.

WWE has promoted much of this weekend around Backlash featuring Nakamura's first televised match since being called up to the main roster, and the company has to hope that they can replicate some of the magic that they created when he debuted against Sami Zayn in NXT last year.

The moment almost certainly isn't make-or-break for Nakamura. He's too charismatic and too good of a wrestler for it to be that important. But WWE has kept him from wrestling on television since debuting on the SmackDown after WrestleMania to make this match against Dolph Ziggler feel special.

House show reports on Nakamura vs. Ziggler haven't been overwhelming, which isn't surprising considering that Nakamura doesn't go all out when wrestling on smaller events. The two should deliver even if Ziggler isn't the best choice to have a classic with, but it may take something near the quality of the Zayn match before some of the audience truly gets what the hype is about with Nakamura.

Others have plenty to prove over the course of the weekend as well. Breezango can continue to elevate their place on SmackDown. Nikki Cross and Ruby Riot can keep showing that they belong at the top of NXT's women's division. Bate and Dunne will be in one of the bigger spots of their careers. And The Authors of Pain have the opportunity to improve their stock at TakeOver as they're once again being put in a favorable position.

The randomness of Mahal's unexpected title shot has understandably defined WWE's weekend in Chicago heading into it, but there are plenty of opportunities for wrestlers to change that narrative once the shows actually start happening.

Mexico Notes

by Dr. Lucha Steve Sims (@DrLuchaJr)

Glory be, no obituaries to write this week!

We did have two women apparently trying to kill each other in the ring, though, so that's pretty close.

In addition, we have the glory of a new star in the lucha firmament, the crowning (or belting) of the latest young CMLL superstar to move up the chain.

First, however, the women. This past weekend, AAA uploaded the match taped in Tijuana on April 29 in which Ayako Hamada defended the AAA Reina de Reinas Championship (in essence, the AAA Women's Title) against the woman from who she had won that title the prior month, Taya Valkyrie.

What a war! The rules were that it was a "street fight match," though since the foreign objects involved consisted of a table, a ladder, and many chairs being involved, and all being destroyed well past the point of repair. Both women came to the ring in street clothes, if you excuse Taya's furry boots, and what transpired over nearly twenty minutes is a level of non-stop violence you rarely see any more in Mexican wrestling, even less so among the luchadoras.

The attacks were of the sort that had this occurred in the parking lot of a bar 10 miles to the north (across the border), and police had been there to see it, both women would have been charged with assault and battery and maybe even worse. You can tell a match is really violent when the Tijuana crowd, a bloodthirsty group by legend and in practice, is mostly in silence as the violence mounts.

Giving this match a rating is both very hard and very easy. Hard in the sense that if you give it 4 stars, 4½ stars, or 5 stars, how do you rank it in comparison to the other matches around the world this year that have been given similarly high grades? It seems really much a case of apples and oranges – this match is so far removed from the CMLL ciberneticos, the Navarro vs. Sabre match, Dragon Lee vs. Takahashi/Kamaitachi or even the excellent match to be discussed immediately below. This women's spectacle is really on an island by itself in that regard. For what it was, it was five stars, but there were times during it where my stomach was a little queasy and my mind was going, this is over the line. (PS Taya won – the finish was Ayako "passing out" in the STF with no fight or energy left due to the level of punishment she had absorbed.)

In the much more pseudo-sport presentation that is CMLL style this decade, the continued promotion new babyface star Soberano Jr. continued this past Friday night with another superb performance. Two weeks ago, Soberano Jr., son of CMLL rudo Euforia, had won the CMLL New Junior Cup tournament over Cien Caras's son Sanson, another youngster with little top-level singles match experience, in a **** match. One of the stipulations of that match was that the winner would get a title shot against one of the champions in his weight class. Accordingly, last Friday night 5/12, Soberano Jr. challenged and defeated Mexican National Welterweight Champion Rey Cometa, a long-time tecnico and not a natural base, in another **** match. Soberano is very athletic and flexible and does big dives. The fluidity that will come in a year or two as he grows, improves, and works with better and more-experienced wrestlers isn't there yet, and in 15- to 20-minute single matches, yes, there are rough patches. That said, he, and CMLL in their campaign to promote him, are doing this about as well as it can be done.

Both matches are highly recommended viewing, but boy, you could hardly find two more opposite great matches this year in lucha libre.

Europe Notes

by Oliver Court (@AnotherOli)

After a long wait, CCK have arrived in PROGRESS. Chris Brookes has long been a notable absentee from PROGRESS shows, but on Sunday he finally debuted for the promotion and brought his dirty wolf with him. I've sung the praises of Brookes and Kid Lykos several times in these Euro Notes, and the team really have been the toast of Midlands BritWres since the start of 2017, having had great matches and now getting the pushes to match. Whether you paint it as PROGRESS 'waiting for the right time' or 'being the last ones to the party', it doesn't really matter; what's clear is that PROGRESS have brought CCK in as potential British Strong Style killers. We've been expecting Travis Banks to be the one to dethrone Pete Dunne for the PROGRESS Championship for a while now, so it seems a natural fit that his CCK mates will be the team to defeat Trent Seven and Tyler Bate for the Tag Team Championships. Brookes and Lykos have been pinpointed as the guys to break out in BritWres in 2017, and their PROGRESS debut and the online reaction to it has a distinct feel of them 'hitting the big time', so they should be well on their way to achieving that 'break out' status now. Midlands wrestling proves superior yet again.

I had some apprehensions over wXw's Superstars of Wrestling show that took place on Saturday, especially after last year's Jurn Simmons vs Jeff Jarrett match (the less said about that one the better) and this year's announcement of Vampiro. However, after drawing nearly 1,000 people, reports say the eventual card they managed to put on was very strong, with a much-improved Simmons taking on a much better opponent in Matt Riddle in the semi-main event, and a Lucha Underground showcase match in the main event for the wXw Shotgun Championship, ending with a newsworthy win for Angelico, who will be back in wXw soon. wXw have kept up the momentum they produced from their exceptional 16 Carat Weekend, with a good True Colour show and now delivering on their first big show since Axel Dieter Jr.'s departure. The loss of Dieter will be tough to deal with, but with Shortcut to the Top coming up, wXw's plan moving forward should become clearer soon.

Japan Notes

by Alan Counihan (@Alan4L)

This week sees one of my personal favourite events of the year kick off. New Japan's Best Of The Super Juniors gets under way on Wednesday at Korakuen Hall with an insanely stacked show (pretty much matched by an equally awesome looking show the following day). When I started getting into Japanese wrestling in the mid 2000s, the BOSJ was the thing that got me into New Japan. Their junior roster at the time was good with great wrestlers like Koji Kanemoto & Minoru Tanaka as the flag bearers but it was the use of outside talent which made the tournament feel extra exciting. The BOSJ was a way to see dream matches that you would be salivating for.

That's been the way since the tournament began under it's former name "Top Of The Super Juniors" in 1988. That year saw Owen Hart, the most innovative wrestler in North America at the time, mixing it up with the likes of Shiro Koshinaka, Hiroshi Hase and a young Keichi Yamada (Jushin Thunder Liger). After a three year hiatus, it returned in 1991 with lucha star Negro Casas, the high flying Scorpio and Finlay added to the mix. The tournament continued as an annual tradition from then on and throughout the 90s produced several dream matches and classic bouts alike.

1992's final of Liger vs. El Samurai is one of the most heated junior matches of all time. However it may have been topped by 1997's Kanemoto vs. Samurai closer from Budokan Hall, forever memorable for the images of Samurai getting dropped on his near maskless head with one of he first ever reverse hurricanranas. That year featured one of the most eclectic fields ever with Chris Jericho, Yoshihiro Tajiri, Robbie Brookside, Gran Naniwa and even Doc Dean competing. 2001 wasn't far behind in that regard. If you ever wanted to see Katsuyori Shibata vs. Dr. Wagner Jr or Chris Candido vs. Silver King then that was the year for you.

Bryan Danielson had his one and only BOSJ appearance in 2004 and produced a fantastic bout against Kanemoto which is must see for fans of intense technical wrestling. 2006 saw Minoru beat Tiger Mask IV in a great final which might well be the best match of TMIV's career. The decade closed out with a multi-year story of Prince Devitt's overcoming his struggles with injuries to eventually reign supreme as champion. He had to withdraw in 2007 and 2008 early in the tournament and it looked like his career may be in jeopardy. However he rebounded by an amazing performance in 2009 making it all the way to the final where he was defeated by Kanemoto in a match which saw him earn his stripes within the division. Then the following year he took it a step further, defeating Kota Ibushi in a classic final to become the ace of the division.

Ibushi would continue the rebounding trend by winning the 2011 tournament in what was my personal favourite BOSJ bout ever against Ryusuke Taguchi. I feel that's pretty much a perfect wrestling match and if you haven't seen it, you need to. Following Devitt's exit and Ibushi's rise to the heavyweight division, KUSHIDA took the reigns of the junior scene and delivered in spades in his two finals against Ricochet in 2014 and Kyle O'Reilly in 2015.

Last year of course featured the famous Will Ospreay vs. Ricochet match which is undoubtedly the most watched and discussed match in tournament history after gaining huge international publicity. Those two will be back this year and go head to head at the scene of the crime from last year – Korakuen Hall. It's going to be an amazing 18 days and if you can keep up you're going to see one heck of a lot of great matches.

TV Reviews

by Bryan's Friend Vince (@FO_VVerhei)

WWF Wrestling Classic (11/7/85)

Mean Gene interviewed Bobby Heenan, who said he was there with $50,000, and he was going to pay it to anyone who could put Paul Orndorff on the shelf.

Paul Orndorff vs. Cowboy Bob Orton. Orndorff, of course, went to work on the arm in the cast. He slammed the cast into the turnbuckle and Orton somehow managed to turn this into a bump almost out of the ring and make it look believable. Orton finally caught him charging into the corner with a knee for the heat. Orndorff pulled the trunks down to get Orton over on a sunset flip. They censored Orton's ass, thank goodness. Orton tried a diving headscissors like a babyface, but Orndorff dodged and Orton crotched himself on the ropes like a heel. Randy's got him beat for physique and star presence, but Orton's bumping and selling, as a heel, was light years ahead of his son's. In desperation, he tried to sneak a cast shot and make a cover, but the ref saw it and called for the bell. Hey, at least this DQ was the result of a guy TRYING TO WIN and not just throwing in the towel. So there's one good match on this show, at least, saving it from the list of the worst PPVs of all time. (***).

They went to Vince and Alfred, where Al had his hands on "Susan's" arms and she was clearly trying to get away, and Al probably would have molested her had Vince not been there to pull him away. Well that was creepy. They recapped the first round. "I don't think you'll find a better first round," Al lied. Terry Funk stormed in and declared that he had been robbed and ranted and raved for a while.

Dynamite Kid vs. Adrian Adonis. Well this could be awesome. In the middle of this, Jesse Ventura realized that the next match would be Ricky Steamboat-Randy Savage, and he had to leave the announce desk to talk to Macho. They took turns suplexing each other for a while, then Adonis put him in a sharpshooter. Seriously. Dynamite got the ropes. This was back in the day when a babyface could hit a sunset flip in the middle of the heat and fans would believe it might actually be the finish. Dynamite made his comeback and hit a snap suplex on the big fat guy. Jimmy Hart jumped on the apron and distracted Dynamite. Adonis hit an O'Connor roll, but Kid kicked him off right into Hart, and Kid pounced on him for the cover and the three-count. This show has really turned around now. (***1/4).

Mean Gene interviewed Ventura. Jesse said that two heads are better than one. "How so?" Gene asked. Jesse looked at him like he was the biggest idiot in the world and said, factly, "two heads are better than one." Then he said three heads were even better than that, and he, Macho, and Liz would find a plan to beat Steamboat. He still insisted he would be an unbiased commentator though.

Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat. This was awesome while it lasted, but it was obvious pretty quickly they wouldn't get much time. Savage won with the exact same "miss a punch, hit a punch" foreign object spot he used to win the IC title from Tito Santana, and that Tully Blanchard used I think against Steamboat on one of these old PPVs a few weeks ago. (**3/4).

Mean Gene tried to interview Moondog Spot, who was chewing a massive bone. That's not a metaphor for anything. He just growled and scratched.

Moondog Spot vs. Junkyard Dog. They fought for 20 seconds. Dog hit a series of headbutts and made a cover. He looked around, but no ref ever came out, so he counted his own pin and left. And this decision stood and everyone just accepted this. Gorilla briefly said it wouldn't stand, but then immediately said they had a "judge" at ringside who made things official. This was either (****) or (-****), I'm not sure, but I'm happy I saw it.

Gene did another interview with Heenan. He said Hulk Hogan's rigorous schedule would cost him in his match against Roddy Piper tonight.

Paul Orndorff vs. Tito Santana. That's two babyface-vs.-babyface matches on this show, which is probably two more than the WWF promoted in the rest of 1985 combined. They traded lots of holds. Orndorff balled up his fists occasionally, but cooled off and stuck with wrestling. Fans were not into all this grappling, and there were some "BORING!" chants. Tito, of course, was never shy to brawl, and when balled up fists back at Paul, Jesse giggled at the thought of them going at each other's throats. Orndorff hit an atomic drop and Tito went down and grabbed his leg, which was heavily taped. Orndorff was clearly conflicted, not sure whether to attack or not. Eventually Tito made it to his feet, and Orndorff immediately grapevined the leg and put on a toehold. Tito finally escaped but could barely walk. So they locked up, and Orndorff hit an elbow to the face and knocked him out of the ring. He followed him outside, and soon they were trading punches on the floor, and just when things were getting good they both got counted out. Well UGH. They had a good idea on paper but took way too long to get there. (*1/2).

Vince and Al went over the brackets. Al was groping Susan again. So with Orndorff and Santana both out of the tournament, JYD was getting a bye into the finals after wrestling for a total of, what, three minutes? (3:45, according to Wikipedia.) He would face the winner of Dynamite Kid and Randy Savage, who were meeting in the other semifinal. Which sounds awesome.

Mean Gene interviewed Hulkster, who was decked out all in WHITE. That was weird. He was also wearing the pre-Winged Eagle belt, which is very underrated as great wrestling belts go.

Hulk Hogan vs. Roddy Piper. Hogan was in great shape here, very lean. He ran wild with the usual brawling. Piper tried something off the middle rope but Hogan caught him in a bearhug. Piper cut him off and hooked the sleeper, and they struggled for several minutes until Hogan fought to his feet and threw both of them over the top. Hogan no-sold some punches on the floor and took over back in the ring. Ref got bumped. Piper went to work with a chair, but Hogan fought back and hooked his own sleeper, while holding the chair. Then Orton attacked Hogan for the DQ. LAME. Orndorff cleared the ring with a chair. Before the crap finish, match was a fun brawl featuring a Hulkster who was a balls-out brawler and not a cartoon character. Hogan and Orndorff posed together afterwards. (**1/2).

Mean Gene interviewed JYD, who said he was losing weight and in great shape for this tournament. Jimmy Hart interrupted to scream at Dog and then nothing happened.

Randy Savage vs. Dynamite Kid. Clearly the best two performers in this tournament facing off here. Just worlds ahead of everyone else. Savage went up top, but Dynamite hit a dropkick from the mat, then a top rope superplex, but on landing Savage hooked Kid's legs in a small package for the win. Well this needed to be twice as long. (***1/4).

Vince and Susan were back to award the Rolls Royce. Susan admitted she had never ridden in a Rolls. Vince said this might be her lucky day. They showed the car, and Susan talked about how great it looked. My GOD what a bubblehead. Howard Finkle was in the ring introducing "distinguished gentlemen, each of whom will deliver a brief statement." So we heard from Jack Tunney, Basil de Vito, some guy, and Lord Alfred Hayes. Holy SHIT this was awful television. This was so bad Hayes sucked up to the Chicago crowd and still got booed. Hayes read the winning name: Michael Hamley from Batavia, Illiinois. Michael Hamley from Batavia, Illinois, got booed. Al asked the crowd to give him a good Chicago cheer and they booed louder. I'm awe-struck.

Gene interviewed Hogan in the locker room. Hogan cut most of this promo looking into the wrong camera. They promised to be on Saturday Night Live. They promised a surprise for Bob Orton.

Tournament finals: Randy Savage vs. Junkyard Dog. Poor Savage came out for his fourth match, limping and grabbing his back. Meanwhile Dog had only wrestled twice, one of which went less than 30 seconds. Dog was the babyface, remember. Savage threw a chair into the ring, but Dog caught it, headbutted it several times, and threw it away. Once they started wrestling, it was terribly slow. Dog hit about two moves a minute as the announcers were tripping all over themselves saying this was the greatest tournament ever. Valiantly, Savage tried a comeback with a clothesline. Dog barely went down for it. Savage hit a pair of axehandles to the floor, which in 1986 WWF would be like a shooting star press. Savage also blatantly used a chair. Ref didn't care. He tried one more axehandle in the ring, but Dog caught him with a punch to the gut, then followed with the crawling headbutts. Savage bumped so high for these from his hands and knees. Dog was EXHAUSTED here. Like, he could barely stand. Savage charged and Dog backdropped him out and Savage got counted out and JUNKYARD DOG WON THE WRESTLING CLASSIC. Holy Christ almighty. Worst performance by a tournament winner of ALL TIME. In ANY SPORT. Wins an all-time terrible match in the first round, wins in 20 seconds in the second round by counting his own pin, gets a bye in the third round, then wins by countout in the finals. I'm calling this (*), which means Dog's three matches in this tournament scored a total of -******. Though that includes -*** against Sheik and -**** against Moondog, and in hindsight, the Sheik match was clearly worse. So I screwed up somewhere. But the point stands.

Vince, Al, and Susan wrapped up the show. Al called it the best night of his LIFE. I believe he promised Susan he'd hook her up with a ride in the Rolls, then he flashed an evil smile. So creepy. This was an awful, awful show.

Retro NWA (5/16/87)

Earlier Today, David Crockett interviewed Jim Cornette concerning the Midnight Express-Garvin & Windham US tag team tournament finals on this show. He ran his mouth for a while, as he tended to do, then tickled Crockett with his tennis racket.

Announcers plugged a card at the Omni, including Ric Flair & Tully Blanchard & Lex Luger taking on the Fabulous Freebirds (!!!). This led to a Freebirds video set to BADSTREET USA. Hey, look! There's Sting! And Dark Journey! And Jim Ross! So yeah, this ruled. Whitney was NOT a fan of Michael Hayes' hair. On his head or his chest. JJ Dillon came out to cut a promo hyping up the match, vowing the Horsemen could be just as bad as the Freebirds.

Midnight Express vs. Ronnie Garvin & Barry Windham. Schiavonie immediately noticed that the tennis racket Cornette was carrying here was bigger than the one he had been carrying earlier. Very basic chain wrestling forever, with neither team getting a sustained advantage. Finally Garvin got thrown to the floor, but when they tried to double-team him Windham was there to help out, and Eaton took a backdrop on the cement. The Express were still able to catch Garvin getting back into the ring and double-team him for the heat. They still just did headlocks, teased tags, and double-teams behind the ref's back. Windham tagged in and punched everything that moved, then just worked over both dudes by himself for a while. He hit a superplex, which is very dangerous for a guy this big with a ceiling this low. He missed a, uh, move off the top, and they took over on him again. This went on for a while, and we got another commercial break. Finally Eaton missed a top rope legdrop and Garvin tagged in, running wild with punches and headbutts. A four-way broke out. Long story short, Lane and Windham both got hit with the racket, Windham put Cornette in a sleeper, Garvin got hit with a chair, and Eaton rolled on top for the pin. There were some moments of confusion here. A good TV match, but nothing you need to go out of your way to see. (***1/2).

Ric Flair video package. I think they play this every hour at this point.

After the break, the Midnights hit the podium for a promo, but Cornette wasn't out there, allegedly still asleep. So Lane did the talking, saying this made all the hours in the gym and the miles on the road worth it. He said the fans could chant or make "lewd, crude remarks," but they could not deny that the Midnights were champions. He said the fans should take out their pocket cameras and take pictures of the new champs, when Crockett interrupted and ordered a replay of the finish. I missed this, but Windham had thrown the ref out of the ring before anyone else cheated. So the Express really did deserve to win this. They went back to the podium, where Cornette, looking like he'd been dragged behind a truck, came out and insisted that it had been an easy win for his team. He bragged about setting Garvin on fire, knocking him out of the Crockett Cup, beating up his brother, and now beating him one more time. He said Garvin should get a new job as a car salesman or hair stylist. Ron "The Barber" Garvin? They showed the closing minutes of the match AGAIN. Was there no STANDBY MATCH booked? I guess not. That was the end. A different episode, to be sure.

WWE Retro Raw 259 (5/11/98)

Vince McMahon came out for a promo. He announced that Steve Austin would be competing in a tag match tonight, but first, he wanted to introduce a man who had proven he was willing to make sacrifices to be No. 1 contender, and brought out corporate Dude Love. It was Foley with his beard neatly groomed, hair washed and pulled back into a ponytail, fake teeth in, in a hideous suit. Dude calmly said he had been confused about his identity last week, but now he knew exactly who he was: a well-educated man, a speaker of several languages, a lover of women, a leader of men, and a surprisingly good dancer for a big man. And he was going to beat Steve Austin for the world championship. Thanks to Vince, he had found his smile, and he demanded a hug, which Vince returned. Vince said he was proud of Dude, and had a surprise for him, and he introduced the timekeeper for the championship match at Over The Edge, Gerald Brisco. Then he introduced Pat Patterson as guest ring announcer, and then a guest referee, but the ref didn't show. Then Vince ordered them to hit the music, then left the ring to take care of things himself. He went backstage for a while. Like, a whole minute went by. The guys in the ring were just wandering around talking to each other. Finally Patterson introduced the guest ref as the best there is, was, and ever will be, Vince McMahon, and Vince came out in a too-small ref shirt with the sleeves cut off, and the camera zoomed right in on his pecs. Vince walked into the ring and did Austin's entrance, then celebrated with his crew. Dude's music played, and he did his dance.

Kevin Kelly was backstage to interview Austin when Sable walked by and blew him off.

DX invaded WCW offices in Atlanta. They had a jeep with a big gun on it and went to a generic office building which was apparently WCW's corporate offices. They talked about how much bigger and cooler the WWF offices in Connecticut were. Jim Ross gave the name of a WCW executive who had called the police and asked for DX to be arrested for lewd behavior. Well that would have been accurate.

Kelly thought Steve Austin was knocking on the door to get into the building, but in terrible news, it wasn't Austin, it was Al Snow and Head. They apparently had tickets but couldn't figure out how to get to their seats.

Vader vs. Barry Windham. Well this sucked. Vader fell on Windham during a sunset flip, time froze, and they had an awful brawl. New Midnight Express interfered and then Vader made a comeback, falling on Windham in a sunset flip on purpose this time. He won with a Vader bomb. Midnight Express attacked but Vader fought them off in a brawl that was barely any better than the match. WOW this was bad.

Austin arrived. They told us to stay tuned. Then Kelly interviewed Austin during the break. He broke the news about Brisco, Patterson, and Vince being in the title match, plus Austin would be in a tag match that night. Austin ran down everybody and said Vince would never get the title off him. He took the mic and stormed off in search of Vince.

Hawk vs. Skull. I quit. Sadly, I guess that's not an option. Skull did the laziest backbreaker of all time. I'm not sure he actually bent his legs. Ross said the match had "slobberknocker possibilities." DOA did an illegal switch that the announcers missed, and 8-Ball pinned Hawk with the shittiest small package I ever saw. What a piece of shit match. (-**).

More DX at CNN Center. So they went to this shopping mall or whatever, and were told they could not film because it was not public property. They chatted with fans and security guards for a while and told the CNN sign to suck it.

Edge vignette. He walked around at night as somebody read a poem about him being the end to all our dreams.

Bradshaw taught Taka Michinoku to drive. Because there are no cars in Japan. They drove out, then drove back in, and got attacked by the Kamikaze Club again.

FUCKING DOUBLE J CAME OUT. I went to the dentist last week. It was significantly better than this show.

Double J vs. Faarooq. Steve Blackman was in Faarooq's corner and attacking behind the ref's back. Yes, the babyfaces were cheating to double-team Double J. How in the hell did this company win the war? Blackman attacked Jarrett again, and then the Nation attacked for the DQ. Somebody kill me.

Steve Austin came out for a promo. He said Vince could pull any tricks with guest timekeepers or announcers or refs he wanted, he'd never get the title back, but he wanted Vince to come out and explain what was up with the match tonight. Vince and the Stooges appeared on the screen and said they didn't know who would be in the match, then did the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil sign. Austin said, whatever, I'll just win the match and stick this belt up your ass.

Val Venis compilation video.

Sable came out to fight Marc Mero, and called him out. He obliged. They had a ref out there. They circled the ring and Mero seemed willing to fight. Sable grabbed a mic and said she couldn't believe Mero had let it go that far, but she was going to give it her best. Mero said it was too late for her to weasel her way out of this and grabbed her in a fireman's carry. He set her down and said he could have knocked her out, but he was a gentleman and let her go. Now he wanted her to apologize for trying to ruin his career. She kicked him in the balls, then picked him up and hit a powerbomb. Yes, he powerbombed himself. Sable left and Mero threw a tantrum.

Undertaker suddenly appeared at ringside and menaced Jerry Lawler. Lawler said Paul Bearer was the one saying terrible things about Taker's mother. Taker was having none of this and kicked Lawler's ass, laying him out with a chokeslam. He went for a tombstone when the lights went out and Kane appeared. Paul Bearer vowed to prove to the whole world that he was Kane's father. They left, so Kane killed Lawler a second time and finally delivered a tombstone.

With Lawler gone, Snow and Head arrived at the announce desk. Snow went off about how he couldn't get in trouble and needed to see Vince as some suspiciously well built security guards arrived. They chased him around for a while. This sucked.

DX and their jeep had their cannon pointed at the CNN building. This can't be legal. They did a special effect of them blowing up the building. Yeah, this wouldn't fly today. DX then came out for a promo. X-Pac cut a promo about how WCW had tried to have them arrested. He said something about Eric Bischoff refusing to apologize. He said he didn't kiss Vince's ass, and he had never kissed Eric's, which was why he didn't work there anymore. Everyone else did their usual schtick, but then they were interrupted by Owen Hart, who said he had unfinished business with Hunter. Hunter dared him to come fight. "WELL I'M COMING DOWN TO KICK YOUR ASS!" Owen warned, but then he brought the rest of the Nation out with him.

Owen Hart vs. Triple H. All you need to know about this match is that they tried to tie Hunter in the ropes and the ropes were too tight and they gave up. Ross acknowledged it was not a pretty match. Owen tried to bite Hunter's ear off. DX and the Nation squared off and they just ended the match with no finish or winner announced. This is the worst show I've seen all year.

Dustin Runnels came out, put the Goldust gear into a trash can, and lit it on fire. He cut a promo about working for Vince for three years. The Rhodes name carried a lot of dignity, he said, but he didn't have any dignity left because of Vince and his sick imagination. He had lost his father, wife, and daughter, and he was blaming it all on Vince. He declared that Goldust was dead, and Vince would never forget the name of Dustin.

Terry Funk & Scorpio vs. Kaientai. No mention of why they were no longer called Kamikaze Club, or why Yamiguchi San had a Kaientai flag. The music stopped, and Yamaguchi told them to stop the music. He called the fans American scumbags and introduced a new Japanese generation with Japanese attitude, saying you never knew when or where they would attack, and they came out from under the ring and attacked. Scorpio's comeback against all three dudes may have been the first good wrestling on the show, but of course it made the small guys look like total geeks in their first official match. Funk ran wild with spinning toeholds. Nobody gave a single shit about any of this. All three Japanese dudes were in the ring the entire match. Bradshaw and Michinoku attacked for the DQ and Kaientai ran away. I may never recover from this show.

Vince was seen backstage telling somebody they would be the most impressive partner Austin ever had.

Al Snow tried to get back into the building. I don't know why. If I had been in this building I'd have been fighting to leave.

The Nation came out. You assholes were just out here. Rock cut a promo about beating Austin's ass.

Rock & D-Lo Brown vs. Steve Austin & a mystery partner. Mystery partner was Vince, who did his own ring introduction. Austin was on fire, running wild on both Nation members and Brisco and Patterson. His performance here almost single-handedly saved this from being the worst episode of Raw of all time. Honestly, all the stuff with Austin, Rock, and D-Lo was good. Vince was just standing on the apron the whole time, giggling and enjoying Austin getting beaten up. Austin hooked a sleeper, and Vince deliberately took the ref so the Nation could illegally switch and break it up. It was a great heat segment with super intensity from both guys. Finally D-Lo missed a frog splash and Austin crawled to the corner, then flipped Vince off and made his own comeback instead. He stunned D-Lo and threw Rock out of the ring, but then Vince clotheslined him and the Stooges attacked. Austin fought back and laid them all out, but then Dude Love hit the ring and laid out Austin. DX and Dustin hit the ring for a brawl and the crowd went wild. Even though that was the second time on the show a match just stopped without even a bell ringing, that was a GREAT main event, even if the rest of the show was torture.

WCW Monday Nitro 139 (5/11/98)

Mean Gene called Bret Hart out for a promo. They said Bret would be wrestling Randy Savage for the first time ever at the PPV that Sunday. I guess that Saturday Night's Main Event in Seattle in November 1987 never happened. Bret ran down Savage for a while, said he was a chicken who had fled to WCW to avoid Bret, but now Bret was there too, and he was going to prove he was as great as he said he was.

Barry Horowitz vs. Disco Inferno. Add Horowitz to the list of wrestlers who do a skull-crushing finale better than Miz. He also used the reverse facelock backbreaker that became one of Christian's signature moves, and Christian hadn't even debuted yet. Disco won quickly with a swinging neckbreaker.

Randy Savage came out for a promo. From the point his music started to the point he appeared on stage, more than a minute passed, then it took him so long to get to the ring that the nWo music just ran out and stopped. Two and a half minutes all in all. He ran down Bret, then challenged Hulk Hogan. He called Hulkster a "bald-headed, reject from the glue factory prima donna." He said he was going to take the carrot Hogan dangled and turn it into a cactus and shove it up his ass. What the fuck is he talking about?.

Kidman vs. Juventud Guerrera. So you know how you can't powerbomb Kidman, because he will always turn it into a facebuster? It turns out that it goes both ways, and when Kidman powerbombs you, you will also turn it into a facebuster. And in this case, you hitting a facebuster will hurt you, but Kidman will stand right up and be totally fine. I had to rewind this three times to make sure it actually happened like that and I didn't miss anything. What a fucked up match. Kidman kicked out of a Michinoku driver, then held onto the ref so Reese could come in and plant Juvy with a tree slam, and Kidman hit a shooting star press for the win. This was like a highlight reel of an actual pro wrestling match. Reese cradled Juvy in his arms, then Kidman jumped on his back, and he carried them both to the back. What a big strong man. Also, looking at him here, he was a sachel-ass.

Eric Bischoff came out on a motorcycle for a promo. He referenced DX, saying that Vince McMahon had been sending his wannabes around, only when they knew Bischoff wouldn't be there. He said Sean Waltman should have known Bischoff wouldn't be at WCW's offices on a Monday afternoon, and he wouldn't apologize to Waltman. But he knew Vince was the one who was really calling the shots, and they were doing a PPV in New England that Sunday. He challenged Vince to come fight him at Slamboree. He warned the people that Vince wouldn't have the guts to show up, so don't buy the PPV to see it. And this led to the one of the great Monday Night Wars, when it was argued in court that Bischoff telling people that Vince wouldn't be there was in fact a message that Vince WOULD be there.

Alex Wright interrupted the Nitro Girls and got taken away.

Yuji Nagata vs. Scott Norton. Yuji actually got this monster over with a belly-to-belly. That was about the only offense he got though, and Norton won with the shoulderbreaker.

Announcers talked for several minutes.

Hugh Morrus vs. Jim Powers. Morrus won in 30 seconds with a powerslam and moonsault.

They were about to go to break when the Wolfpac was shown coming through the crowd. Actually it was just Kevin Nash and Konnan. Nash said he and Scott Hall had first formed the nWo, then Hulk Hogan had jumped on board when he saw how hot they were getting. He said Hogan and Bischoff's chests were pumped up because they were taking Viagra. I don't think that's how Viagra works. They knew Hogan would be there tonight, and they demanded Hogan admit Nash was bigger, younger, stronger, and sexier, and admit that it was Nash's World Order. He said he looked like Godzilla. Now you won't find many bigger Godzilla fans than me, but I don't think I'd ever say he was sexy. He said Hogan wasn't listening to Mack 10, and coached him on how to say "for life" and "too sweet.".

Ultimo Dragon vs. Johnny Swinger. Swinger looked good here in his Nitro debut. At least, he did for the two minutes it took for Chavo Guerrero come and and distract the crowd. Dragon hit the worst top rope rana of his life and then hooked the dragon sleeper for the win. Chavito congratulated Dragon on his win, but then Eddie came out separated them, then started shoving Chavo. Chavo shoved Eddie down, so Eddie got on his knees and offered Chavo a free shot. Dragon pounced and hooked Eddie in the sleeper, but Chavo broke that up and that was that.

Dusty Rhodes came out for a promo. Oh yeah, I forgot he was in the nWo. He promised that Nash would get in Hogan's face, and Hogan and Bischoff were sitting down at the table Dusty had built. He buried them for firing Syxx, then took credit for Scott Hall getting a job and becoming the coolest dude on the planet. He and Bischoff had gone through personal problems, and Hall was going through one, but he'd be at the PPV. So he looked like he was siding with Nash, but then he said Randy Savage needed to stop bitching. He repeated that Hall would be at the PPV and Nash would be in Hogan's ugly face. What in the fuck was going on here?.

Goldberg vs. Len Denton. Tenay was sure to note that Len Denton was an accomplished grappler. Denton hit one jawbreaker, then it was punches, spear, jackhammer, win.

Mean Gene brought JJ Dillon and Raven out for a promo. Dillon talked about the fan who had been attacking Raven repeatedly, including on MTV. He said he didn't like Raven, but Raven and his attorneys had a point that they had put him in an unsafe working environment, and could be in breach of his contract. Raven confirmed this. Dillon said that WCW would be paying for four riot control officers to protect Raven. Gene was appalled by this, that WCW would offer proper security to a contractor who was repeatedly being attacked by fans. Raven called out the Flock. He declared he would find out who the attacker was and get his revenge, that he would face DDP one more time in a BOWERY DEATH MATCH, a last man standing match in a cage with a roof. He said there had been strife between Saturn and Hammer, and Saturn had lost the fight. They called out Saturn to speak up for himself. Saturn came out. They congratulated Hammer on his win, but said it had been a loser leaves the Flock match, and Hammer was the biggest loser there was. They all beat up Hammer and sent him out of the ring. Raven declared that Saturn was his enforcer and would stay by his side. Then Jerry Flynn ran out and attacked Saturn, and they started having a match, and the ref was counting pins even with Raven and his goons in the ring.

Saturn vs. Jerry Flynn. "I'm totally confused," Larry Zbyszko said, and he was not alone. Saturn got the win with a DVD. I think we had one match over two minutes so far this show.

Fit Finley vs. Rage. Thank god for Fit Finley, sent by the Lord above to save this show. He beat up both these muscleheads in a great display until they cheated to cut him off. They went to cheat again but Booker T ran out and attacked Chaos, and Finley pinned Rage with a tombstone. Chris Benoit ran out to attack Booker. Dillon declared he was sick of Booker and Benoit interfering in matches and booked them against each other tonight, and there must be a winner, who would get a title shot against Finley on Sunday.

Nitro party clips from a YMCA in Tennessee. The highlight here was the kid doing Alex Wright's dance.

Lenny Lane vs. DDP. Page deserves to be in the Hall of Fame for this match alone. He had a good match with Lenny Freakin' Lane. They went back and forth the whole time, then Page set him on the top rope and brought him down with a diamond cutter for the win. Then he cut a promo accepting Raven's challenge, threatening to bang him. What kind of PPV is this? Raven and his riot squad came out, but then just walked away.

nWo black and white came out for a promo. Hogan plugged his shitty movies for a while, then said Nash and Hall had been trying to ride his coattails to the top. He accepted Randy Savage's challenge and vowed he'd be watching tape of the match in five hours back on the movie set in Vancouver. He made fun of Nash's grey hair and skinny legs and called him out, and Nash obliged. He made fun of Hogan's sunglasses. Hogan made fun of Nash's thong. Nash asked why Hogan was checking him out. Hogan said Nash was too sweet. Nash admitted "I am sexy." Hogan demanded Nash apologize for wearing black and red and confusing Konnan and Curt Hennig. Nash stepped forward and Hogan stepped back behind Vincent and Brian Adams. Nash refused to apologize and said he might just go through these stooges to get to Hogan. Hogan said he had a big gun for this gunfight, and Giant came out in a black and white shirt. Yes, he's just back in the nWo now. Nash attacked Hogan's flunkies, but Giant laid him out. We really should have started tracking Giant's turns as we went through these retro shows. So far he debuted in the Dungeon of Doom, feuded with the Horsemen, feuded with the nWo, joined the nWo, left the nWo, and now joined them again, in three years. They tagged Nash until Konnan, Dusty, and Savage ran out, and they backed down. Giant's afraid of those three goofs?.

Mean Gene brought Chris Jericho out for a promo. He did his usual spiel until Dillon interrupted. He announced a 15-cruiserweight battle royal for Slamboree, with the winner getting a title shot against Jericho on the show. Jericho was outraged by this, but then thought about, and realized the guy who fought him would have to fight 14 other guys first, and he would take those odds. Then he revealed his Dean Malenko portrait, which had been defaced with sunglasses and a beard and a tattoo and other silliness. Joe Malenko then appeared to confront Jericho. Jericho said he had no problems with Joe and called him "shooter." Joe called Jericho "the Energizer bunny of poor taste." He said Jericho had disrespected his whole family, and back in his time retired wrestlers got respect from younger guys. Jericho said this was all a misunderstanding and he had nothing against the Malenkos. He offere to let Joe take the portrait of Dean and leave. Then he jumped Joe from behind and broke the portrait over his head. Nobody cared.

Comments from Glacier earlier this afternoon. He claimed he had lived up to the hype of his debut and invented the cryonic kick. He declared this was his move, and if you used it, he would take you out. Announcers pointed out how silly this was and how the superkick had been around forever.

Glacier vs. Sick Boy. This was among the worst matches I've ever seen. First of all, I'm not sure anyone ever explained to Sick Boy what selling is, and that when your opponent punches or kicks you, you should pretend that it hurts. Then he apparently got stuck upside down on the ropes. Glacier threw a kick. It missed. Sick Boy sold THAT anyway, taking out the ref in the process. At this point Glacier realized his first kick had missed and threw another one and stiffed Sick Boy in the back. Glacier hit the cryonic kick, no ref. Saturn hit the ring and superkicked Glacier and put Sick Boy on top. Glacier kicked out at 2. The bell rang. Everyone laid around in confusion. Glacier finally hit the cryonic kick and got the real three-count. Saturn returned and beat Glacier up more. Jesus Christ almighty. (-***1/2).

Boy, between this retro Nitro, the retro Raw I just watched, and the Wrestling Classic pay per view, I don't know if I've ever seen so many negative star matches on so many different shows in a week.

Lex Luger came out for a promo, talking about Rick Steiner going in for surgery and how disgusting Scott Steiner was. He said he wrestled top guys, bottom guys, and anyone in between, and never complained. He demanded a match against Scott Steiner and/or Brian Adams at the PPV.

Booker T vs. Chris Benoit. Benoit cut his hair after his mullet was all over the place last week. Slower than most Benoit matches, and he took 80 percent of it. Booker kicked out of the top rope headbutt. Booker made a hot comeback and the place fired up, but Benoit trapped him in the crossface and Booker submitted. Wow, what an asskicking this was. So it's Benoit vs. Finley at the PPV.

Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage. Michael Buffer called this terrible show the best WCW Monday night ever. He also said that when you belong to the nWo, you belong "forever." So, what is the main event for Slamboree? I just realized I have no idea, and this is the go-home show. Is it Outsiders vs. Sting & Giant? Page-Raven? Is Hogan defending the title against somebody? Hogan missed the big leg and Savage went up top, but Disciple shoved him down. Bret Hart ran out and drilled Savage with the belt. I forgot Savage is wrestling Hart. Is that the main event? So Hogan got the pin here. Nash ran down, spraypaint washed off his back, and the black and white fled. Roddy Piper showed up and declared Savage the winner via DQ, and also declared himself the special ref for the Hart-Savage match. He let them both know he wouldn't be enforcing any rules. Giant stormed out but Hogan stopped him from hitting the ring. Then they randomly cut to a shot of Sting in the rafters. And that was the end.

So here is the spoiler-free card for Slamboree: Finley vs. Benoit; Luger vs. Steiner or Adams; Cruiserweight battle royal for a shot at Jericho's title; DDP-Raven; Eddie Guerrero-Ultimo Dragon; Goldberg-Saturn; Savage-Hart; and yes, the main event was Sting & Giant vs. Outsiders. What a bizarre card.

WWE Monday Night Raw (5/8/17)

Dean Ambrose was bebopping around backstage when he got a phone call from Kurt Angle. He made a joke about a name for a PPV, then went to the ring for a promo. He said Angle wouldn't be there, so he would be the acting GM tonight. He was talking about how there would be no talking on his show when Miz came out to talk. I swear that happened. Miz said Steph had made him co-GM. They talked and talked and Dean threatened to beat him up at Extreme Rules. They were about to shake hands when Braun Strowman interrupted, his arm in a sling. He vowed to finish Roman off forever, and said he wanted Brock Lesnar next. He was interrrupted by Kalisto's wacky music and scary monster mask. He said he wasn't done with Braun, and had beat him in the dumpster match, but Braun couldn't take it like a man. He demanded a match with Braun tonight. "HA HA HA!" Strowman said. Just like that. He said Kalisto had beaten him on a technicality, he would beat Kalisto when he was healthy, and he could beat Kalisto with one arm. So Dean picked up on that last part and booked the match tonight, Braun against "the world's bravest tiny little man," and everyone laughed. Yes, they turned Kalisto into a joke. Braun left so Dean and Miz could TALK more. Finally Dean booked Miz against Finn Balor.

Finn Balor vs. Miz. Finn made his comeback when Miz pulled him into the ref, who bonked into Maryse and knocked her off the apron. Miz then cut a promo ordering the ref to disqualify Finn for hitting him. Yes. So the ref obeyed and Miz declared himself the winner. It's early, but this show sucks so far. Dean came out and restarted the match with Maryse banned from ringside. Finn almost immediately hit the sling blade and coup de grace for the win. And this win gets him nothing, because Miz is still challenging Dean for the IC title.

Nia Jax confronted Alexa Bliss backstage. She demanded to know why Alexa had not insulted her last week. She wanted to know if Alexa had meant it when she said Nia was great. Then she demanded a title shot. Alexa said that was up to Kurt, and you'll have to ask him. Nia declared herself Alexa's new best friend until the title match was booked. Every segment with Nia talking sucks, maybe worse than the segments with Nia wrestling.

Alexa Bliss vs. Mickie James. Nia came out with Alexa, so Bayley came out with Mickie. London crowd was singing for Bayley and Mickie. Mickie took the whole match. Bayley dived onto Nia at ringside. Mickie went up top, but Alexa knocked her down with an elbow to the face and pinned her. Well I'm not sure how they could have made Mickie look like a bigger geek here. Unless Alexa starts winning via knockout elbow every week, which I doubt she will. Bayley chased Alexa to the back, which let Nia kill Mickie.

Miz confronted Dean backstage. They talked and talked about how Dean wanted less talking. This is two segments in barely half an hour devoted to talking about how much talking sucks. It's like they are self-aware they are producing a shitty show and just don't care. Miz booked Dean against Bray Wyatt.

They did a tale of the tape for Kalisto and Braun. Braun is bigger.

Charley interviewed Samoa Joe. He ran down Seth Rollins for a while until Seth showed up and they brawled.

Braun Strowman vs. Kalisto. Braun went to the trouble of coming down to the ring, then said he wasn't wrestling tonight. He called Roman a coward. Then the bell rang and Braun booted Kalisto in the face. Then the ref, who had called for the bell, asked Braun what he was doing. Well that's a stupid question. Almost immediately Roman's music hit and he came out, all taped up. They brawled. Did the bell ring? Is the Kalisto match over now? Then, as always, Braun missed a charge and hit the post. Roman went after Braun's bad shoulder, beating him through the crowd with a chair until Strowman fled. Gotta admit, that was a pretty cool brawl once Roman took over.

Cesaro & Sheamus vs. Enzo & Cass. This was the first part of a tag team turmoil match. Enzo taking a backbreaker and selling it by rolling to the floor and going "OW OW OW OW OW OW OW OW OW OW OW" made me giggle. And I don't think that was his goal. They beat up Enzo, prevented a hot tag, and got the win with a sharpshooter. Well then.

Cesaro & Sheamus vs. Heath Slater & Rhyno. They brawled on the floor and took Rhyno out "before the match started." They beat up Heath for a minute or three and pinned him with a brogue kick.

Cesaro & Sheamus vs. Gallows & Anderson. Most of this happened during the commercial. We got 30 seconds of action and Sheamus pinned Gallows with a brogue kick.

Cesaro & Sheamus vs. Golden Truth. Wait a minute, only one of these teams actually has a name, and it's TRUTH AND GOLDUST? They ran wild a bit, then Cesaro cut Goldust off a bit, worked over the leg and put him in the sharpshooter. Truth broke that up and got a hot tag, the first of this whole Turmoil match. He got a nearfall that nobody bought with a scissors kick, then missed a charge and Cesaro pinned him with a schoolboy. So Cesaro and Sheamus literally beat the entire Raw tag division on their path to a title shot. They beat up Golden Truth more after the match until the Hardys came out and chased them away.

Samoa Joe vs. Seth Rollins. Third time we have seen this match in less than a month. Graves said that "every one of Samoa Joe's appendages is a weapon." Well I hope we don't see all of them. Nobody cared about the match. Joe beat him up forever and laughed at him. Seth made a comeback people cared about briefly. They were working hard here in this silent building. Seth sold his bad leg by hoisting Joe into the air for a falcon arrow. So after ten-plus minutes of boredom Joe yanked off a turnbuckle and threw Seth's head into it for a DQ. Because I am already sick of watching them wrestle but THIS FEUD MUST CONTINUE. "It's not about wins and losses tonight," Graves noted. Is it ever? Fuck this company and fuck this show.

Bray Wyatt vs. Dean Ambrose. Nobody gave a shit about this either. Miz went down to ringside just in case a clean finish should rear its ugly head. Crowd began to chant for Randy Savage, then CM Punk. Time passed. Miz hit Dean with the belt. Still wasn't the finish. So Bray hit Sister Abigail for the pin amidst "BORING" chants. So Miz and Dean are both losers heading into their epic PPV main event. Miz attacked Dean and vowed to beat him for the title. Fans yawned. A very boring, self-destructive show.

WWE NXT (5/10/17)

Aleister Black vs. Cezar Bononi. Bononi is a huge Brazilian, 6-foot-6 they said. So of course he has a jiu jitsu background. He's got a hell of a body too, so if he had any charisma and talent at all he'll be on the main roster some day. They had a fun, spot-heavy squash match. Black won with the spinning superkick.

Clips of the women's battle royal from last week. Even the clips were terrible. Then they showed William Regal running Asuka down in the hallway and letting her know she would be in a four-way, and she was not happy to hear that. They announced Ember Moon had suffered a shoulder strain on that stupid, STUPID dive where nobody caught her and would be out 4 to 5 weeks, which means she would miss the four-way in Chicago. She vowed to be back better than ever. Smarter than ever too, I hope. So the four-way is now a triple-threat.

They announced that on the European tour, Pete Dunne had won a title shot against UK champion Tyler Bate at TakeOVer. Then we got a video package on Dunne, who is the guy who calls himself the bruiserweight. He's not a pretty man.

Ruby Riot video package. She was at the tattoo parlor talking about growing up in a small town. She talked about losing relationships with friends and family and missing holidays and birthdays and weddings to wrestle, and how winning the NXT title would justify all this. This was good.

Nikki Cross then did a sitdown interview. Well, she started too. Then she chased away all the tech geeks and cut a strange promo threatening Ruby and batting at the equipment like a cat. She started screaming, asking where Asuka was, then asked where her championship was, and threatened Ruby and Asuka repeatedly. I enjoyed this.

Kayla interviewed Drew McIntyre. He said in the last three years he had learned that if things weren't happening for you, you had to make them happen. Wesley Blake interrupted and told Drew to leave -- again.

Velveteen Dream hype video. Whatever.

DIY came out for a promo. They said they had never had a one-on-one championship rematch with the Authors of Pain. Wouldn't that be two-on-two? They said Heavy Machinery and every other team needed to get in line behind them. Tino Sabbatelli and Riddick Moss interrupted. They said it was not about big heavy giants lumbering around the ring. Hey, I agree, because Heavy Machinery do not lumber! DIY attacked and sent them packing, and then a wrestling match broke out.

Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli vs. DIY. Moss and Sabatelli got matching trunks, so presumably this team will be together for a while. They were bigger than DIY and cut Ciampa off and muscled him around. They outright said Sabatelli was a millionaire, a former starter in the NFL, who showed up at the Performance Center in a Maserati every day. They claimed Moss had an NFL background too. OK, this is awesome. His real name is Mike Rallis, and in August of 2013 he sent an email to Jim Ross' website about how to get in touch with WWE developmental, and Ross said to get back to him with contact info, and here we are. The two NFL guys looked totally fine here, if a little generic. But DIY obviously know what they are doing and had a good match with them. They got the win with the superkick/kneestrike combo. Regal then stepped out and said only one team deserved a title shot at TakeOver. Paul Ellering and the Authors interrupted and threatened to end DIY's careers. Regal said he was willing to take that chance, and Ellering said their blood would be on Regal's hands. He started to leave when Regal called him back and said there would be a stipulation for the match, and it would be a ladder match. This made the Authors angry but DIY happy, I guess because now they didn't have to actually beat anyone to win the belts.

Kayla interviewed Kassius Ohno and asked where he went after losing his title match against Bobby Roode. He said almost the exact same thing Drew had said earlier, that after three years away, he had learned to get back up. And then Andrade Almas interrupted. This is the exact same segment we saw earlier, just with different people. So Ohno challenged Almas to a match next week and Almas accepted.

Tyler Bate video package.

That other new girl whose name I forget now interviewed Roddy. He said this top contender's match was what he had come for, and then his music started and he went out.

Itami also did a prematch promo, saying he respected Strong, and Strong was great, but Itami was going to Chicago, and Strong would go to sleep.

Roderick Strong vs. Hideo Itami. Roddy escaped a GTS early. Itami was working over and being more than a little heelish. Strong cut him off and went right to work on the scarred-up shoulder. Holds aplenty ensued. They brawled on the floor and Roddy threw him rather dangerously into the apron. Itami made a comeback full of kicks. They went back and forth a bit. Itami got a nearfall with a top rope falcon arrow. Fans were kind of into the big moves, but were way more interested in chanting insults at each other. Itami hit the kneestrike that Daniel Bryan stole. Announcers didn't pick up on that. Roddy avoided a go to sleep again, but it just sparked a flurry of strikes from Itami. Roddy did the best job selling exhaustion ever, struggling to his feet and throwing this desperate, ugly strikes with nothing behind them. And Itami ducked one and hit the go to sleep for the win. A classic Japanese-style match that started off slow but got better the longer it went, though it capped off at "good TV main event." Probably would have come off even better in front of a different crowd. And if I'm being honest, the wrong man won, but it's clear they have some kind of long-term plan in mind for Roddy. Roddy congratulated Hideo on his win afterwards, then was sad.