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Figure Four Weekly 1/8/2018: Jericho continues to make wrestling a better place

Jericho continues to make pro wrestling a better place


by Joseph Currier (@josephcurrier)

At 47 years old, Chris Jericho would have been forgiven if his match against Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 12 wasn't a classic.

No one expected Jericho vs Omega to live up to Kazuchika Okada vs. Omega from the year prior. There was no way it could have. It was enough that Jericho, someone who's been with WWE since 1999 and has enjoyed a privileged position for most of his run, was wrestling in NJPW at all. Interest for this year's Tokyo Dome show was up fairly substantially from the last few years across the board, with attendance figures and New Japan World subscriber numbers rising year-over-year. And while Okada vs. Tetsuya Naito was the clear main event in the building, Jericho vs. Omega was just as clearly the most significant thing outside of Japan.

Jericho compared him facing Omega to Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather's superfight. And though the spectacle of Jericho vs. Omega could never come close to that circus, the general comparison between the two was valid. Jericho vs. Omega was something that people never thought could reasonably happen until shortly before it was announced. The angles leading up to it and Jericho sharing the ring with Omega on NJPW's biggest stage would have been enough for it to have been a success for all involved regardless of quality.

Of course, neither Jericho nor Omega settled for that being good enough. They had a nearly 35-minute match that, while not being at the level of Okada vs. Omega or some of the other legendary bouts NJPW had in 2017, will be remembered when people are coming up with their award ballots at this time next year. It was representative of the quality that people have come to expect from the top matches at Wrestle Kingdom and may have been the best of the night.

Jericho and Omega worked the bout exactly as they should have. They positioned it as a fight instead of being about star ratings, with the smoke and mirrors of the brawling, weapon use, and Omega bleeding helping to make it the best match that it could have been at this point in Jericho's career. As he always does when the spot calls for it, Omega went all out in an attempt to prove he's the best wrestler in the world. Even in difficult spots at the end of a long and grueling contest, Jericho's work was crisp and his timing was largely on point.

The excellent match was just an exclamation point on their program. Everyone came out looking better than when they came in, but -- despite putting Omega over -- there was no bigger winner than Jericho. He made himself a bigger star, was the talk of the pro wrestling world, got to have the match he wanted, and seemed to have a lot of fun working for NJPW and with his friends. Whether it was his intention or not, he helped make the business a better place. It's always a good thing when people see pro wrestling from a global perspective and find wrestlers and promotions that are worth supporting in addition to WWE.

Jericho deserves all the credit in the world for even wanting to wrestle at the Tokyo Dome show, and pro wrestling would be better if more people had his mindset. Doing what makes you happy and helps fulfill your career should be a priority. And from what Jericho has said, Vince McMahon was supportive of him facing Omega and didn't try to talk him out of it. Jericho will be more of a priority whenever he heads back to WWE because of how he's managed to raise his profile.

Jericho appeared at New Year's Dash, a show at Korakuen Hall the day after Wrestle Kingdom, to start his next chapter in NJPW. He attacked Tetsuya Naito in an angle following the main event, brawling with him and clearly setting up at least one more match. Whether it happens in Japan or when NJPW comes to Long Beach in March, he'll get the chance to face another one of the handful of best workers in the world and will have the opportunity to get everyone talking once again.

Maybe the Naito match will be the end of this run in NJPW, but there's really no way of telling. Jericho will try his best to keep everyone guessing. Few others know how to promote themselves as well or have taken control of their own destiny in the way that he has. Jericho's story is a unique one in this era, and he's consistently made pro wrestling a better place throughout his almost three decades in the industry.


Mexico Notes


by Dr. Lucha Steve Sims (@DrLuchaJr)

AAA has one its 3 biggest shows of 2017 in 12 days – the annual Guerra de Titanes. We'll preview that in the next issue and then cover the results in the week after; AAA will have the spotlight those two weeks as CMLL's big guns will be in Japan for FantasticaMania and, in Mexico, CMLL cards are likely to be sort-of placeholder cards. So for this report, let's review the past fortnight in CMLL and some encouraging trends in the area of younger (i.e., newer, fresher) talent.

The biggest short-term in-ring news was noted very briefly in the last issue, that of Negro Casas defeating Sam Adonis in a match of caballera contra caballeraon January 1, 2018. Discuss

No, a much more encouraging thing has been hinted at in the first few days of 2018, hinting of long-term promotional corrections that could make this promotion much closer to the world-wide influencer that it has the potential to be.

Well, there were actually a few hints, really.

For the first time in a long-time, an opening-match wrestler was given the level of in-ring ceremony and presentation deserved for a star youngster being promoted up the cards. Young wrestler Fiero appeared in the opening match of the Kings' Day Arena Mexico card of January 6th, and after the match, was given the new mask and name of Audaz, in a presentation led by CMLL booking committee member Panico – a presentation designed to mean something.

Also, that opening match itself was another hint. The match and its wrestlers were actually given time and permission to have a real match, not just a curtain-jerker. They did not just introduced the style to warm up the crowd, they went all out, a style that CMLL has been notorious for years and years in not permitting their opening-match workers to do.

Fiero, not Audaz, may not have even had the best night of the six young lions in the match – a young (okay, he's almost 26, so "younger" may be a batter term) rudo working as Templario was the main rudo and main base for his young time and really stood out.

Another wrestler in that match who had a solid night was La Magia Blanca, 24. His 22-year-old cousin and frequent tag-team partner El Bandido trained in CMLL under Ultimo Guerrero. In a story from a few months back, Ultimo Guerrero actually advised Bandido to stay away from CMLL at this point in his career because of the poor track record with CMLL in bringing in very young wrestlers and having them die on the vine in1st- and 2nd-on-the-card matches. Whether it was this particular story (Bandido could be a major superstar down the line, he's off to Japan later this winter), or others, as the front office is well aware of how the luchadores feel "held down" in relation to their match-working capabilities, something does appear to have lit a fuse in power.

By all accounts the single best thing CMLL did last year was its moving Soberano Jr. and then the Nuevo Generacion Dinamita up the cards. From time-to-time in the 30+ year tenure of Paco Alonso, CMLL has done this, created new stars from within their roster, either by repackaging (Mistico) or promotion (Hector Garza) or some other means. The current roster is an excellent one work-rate wise, but no one wrestlers really sells tickets any more, not on their name. The two big shows can, and an occasional blow-off match, but for many reasons, things are stale.

A wrestling business must create and successfully promote new stars constantly. The year of Busca de un Idolo III, the year of Cavernario and Dragon Lee, may well have been the most interesting CMLL year in the last ten. It would be good for business and a real joy for their long-suffering steady fans to see 2018 be the year that the next new wave arrived.


Europe Notes


by Oliver Court (@AnotherOli)

Welcome back to the Euro notes and Happy New Year! I apologise for the absence over December, but taking an unintentional break did let me survey the state of play in BritWres as we enter 2018. Last year was a transformative year for European wrestling in many ways, as WWE UK and the UK Championship tournament brought many new eyes onto the scene, while Will Ospreay, Marty Scurll and Zack Sabre Jr. flew the flag in NJPW and WALTER and Ilja Dragunov had the first consensus 5 star match in Europe at wXw's 16 Carat.

Because of those events and moments, European wrestling has fundamentally changed, but there remain many more changes to go through in 2018. A year on from the UK tournament, WWE UK is still an undefined concept and its stars, particularly champion Pete Dunne, are in a contractual flux, neither a 'WWE Superstar' nor a 'true' indie wrestler. Promotions are also caught in the WWE web, with PROGRESS' status in particular an uncertainty. PROGRESS are the top dog in terms of international attention after using WWE UK to make waves in the US, including a major show in New York last summer. That success comes with the perpetual Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads - will they be on the Network by the end of the year? Does WWE affect their booking (see Connors, Joseph)?

Other promotions have forged a different path. RevPro buddied up with New Japan instead, and last year their relationship became visibly stronger with more obscure NJPW wrestlers such as El Desperado making their way over alongside the Naitos and Ishiis of the world. RevPro's York Hall shows are advertised around New Japan and especially Bullet Club stars appearing, though their hidden gem Live at the Cockpit shows are where RevPro's long-term quality continues to be found.

From a creative standpoint, it was wXw that made the greatest gains in 2017 and move into the New Year with loads of momentum, but also uncertainty. WALTER and Ilja Dragunov brought eyes to the promotion with a killer match and continued to produce throughout the year, but Dragunov was written out of storylines with an emotional send-off at their last show of the year, so while he may yet return, there will be reshuffling at the top of wXw. WALTER will continue to crush it in Germany and overseas, and an excellent set of improving stars like Avalanche, Bobby Gunns and new Women's Champ Killer Kelly still make wXw the most intriguing Euro promotion as we enter 2018.

So, lots of questions to be asked and lots of answers to obtain. European Wrestling in 2018 is going to be a fascinating journey.


Japan Notes


by Alan Counihan (@Alan4L)

Rejoice!!! It looks like they're finally doing it. As I begged for in recent months in these pages, New Japan seem to be finally going a different direction with their Heavyweight Tag Titles. It may not be a long term change in philosophy but beggars can't be chooses so we'll take what we're getting and that's one heck of a tag match coming up between new champs EVIL & SANADA and Kazuchika Okada & Hirooki Goto.

The last tag title match featuring all native wrestlers of this quality was probably in 2005 when Hiroshi Tanahashi & Shinsuke Nakamura defended against Yuji Nagata & Hiroyoshi Tenzan. Fans have been begging for tag team title challenges from teams made up of major singles stars and they're can't exactly that with Okada and Goto.

The bout will likely happen at one of the New Beginning shows, and stems from two of the other title matches that will take place. Okada told his potential IWGP Heavyweight Title challenger SANADA that he wanted something in return and the tag title match was it. His partner would be Hirooki Goto who is likely to defend his NEVER title at New Beginning against EVIL. It's not quite the blend of the Triple Crown and Tag Title matches in mid-90s All Japan but it's a nice start!

Also looking likely for New Beginning is an IC title match pitting Hiroshi Tanahashi against newly bald Minoru Suzuki. The former NEVER champ attacked Tanahashi relentlessly at New Year's Dash and seemed fired up to be coming after him. It will be their first title match since their 2012 classic at the first ever King Of Pro Wrestling show. On the junior side of the title scene, Hiromu Takahashi looks to be the first challenger for newly crowned champion Will Ospreay. These two have amazing chemistry together and there's no reason why this can't be an early MOTYC – especially if it happens in Osaka. The junior tag title bout will likely be a rematch between The Young Bucks and Roppongi 3K.

The two big non-title programmes that have been started are Jay White vs. Kenny Omega (after White spurned Kenny's offer to join the Bullet Club) and Chris Jericho vs. Tetsuya Naito. The latter probably won't take place until the California show in March, and the former may end up being stretched out too. White has officially joined CHAOS so he has partners available if they want to go the tag route with him on the New Beginning tour against Omega and various BC partners.


Vinny's TV Reviews


by Bryan's Friend Vince (@FO_VVerhei)

Retro NWA (10/24/87)

Show opened with clips of Paul Jones laying a browbeating on Mighty Wilbur, but this time Wilbur lost his patience and grabbed Jones, and I mean GRABBED him, and whipped him into the ropes. They cut away before we could see what happened, but they promised to show us the fate of Ol' Puddinhead later in the show. They also plugged the Nassau show, including WAR GAMES FOUR.

Jimmy Valiant & Bugsy McGraw vs. Eric Long & Tommy Angel. Another week, another adventure with the most annoying team of all time. HOLY SHIT ERIC LONG. Haven't done this in a while, but Eric Long is the WORST WRESTLER OF ALL TIME OF THE WEEK. I have never, EVER, seen a man hit the ropes so poorly. Forget never being in a ring before, has this fuck ever just RUN before? On a track, or a treadmill, or just down the street? They kept him in there for a long time, way longer than this match needed to go. They just pulled his hair repeatedly and did not deny it. Bugsy finally pinned him with a splash. Terrible in every way. I mean, completely without merit. Then Jimmy and Bugsy cut a promo about doing commercials and making movies. Crowd loved Bugsy for reasons that completely escape me. He talked about bulges and bears and kinky bears and he and Jimmy screamed and they left, and they put up a graphic saying that if we had a headache we should stay tuned, and I swear to the good lord above I am not making a single word of this up.

Barry Windham vs. John Savage. This was fucking Jericho-Omega compared to the opener. They went three minutes and Barry won with the lariat. Windham then cut a promo with Mike Rotundo. Windham hyped up his UWF title match with Steve Williams at Starrcade, and friendship would be put to the side with the championship on the line. Rotundo said with all the hoopla going on, a lot of wrestlers were forgetting about their wrestling, and that was good for him, because nobody could beat him wrestling. He was SO high.

Starrcade Report from the Starrcade Control Center. The official name for the show is now "Starrcade 87: Chi-Town Heat: Glory Bound." That's a mouthful. They announced a six-man tag of Jimmy Garvin & Michael Hayes & Sting vs. Eddie Gilbert & Rick Steiner & Larry Zbyszko. They talked about the TV title vs. TV title match. Jim Crockett said UWF commissioner John Ayers had been "completely ineffective" in getting the NWA belt back from "the thief Terry Taylor." They replayed the angle from last week with Hiro Matsuda attempting to end the life of referee Tommy Young with the Oriental sleeper and Johnny Weaver making the save. Dusty Rhodes cut a promo, wearing a white Hawaiian shirt, cowboy boots up on a desk. First thing he did was talk about what a legend he had made himself at Starrcades past, and how he had signed a contract to face Lex Luger for the US title at Starrcade 87. He talked about losing Magnum TA in the blink of an eye, then repeated that he was a legend with no equal, but the US title had never been around his waist. I believe he said his life was on the line in this match. To beat the legend, he said, you had to beat the legend. He said that his career and livelihood were on the line and could be gone in a split-second. They went back to the control center and clarified that the Rhodes-Luger match would be title vs. career. JJ Dillon was there and said the printed contract did not match the terms they had discussed. Dillon said the contract banned Dusty from wrestling in the US for 30 days. They wanted to put Dusty out of wrestling for good, so they wanted him banned globally for 90 days. Um, 90 days isn't forever either.

Mighty Wilbur vs. David Isley. No Paul Jones out with Wilbur. Wilbur won in seconds with a Polish hammer and splash. David Crockett then interviewed Wilbur, who stuck his hands in his pockets, then smiled and waved at the camera. They showed the angle, with Wilbur hitting the Polish hammer and splash on Jones until Ivan Koloff and Warlord chased him away. He talked about picking fruits and working the vineyards in Hayward, California. A lot of hard work, you know. Then he met Red Bastien at 7-11, and Wilbur saved an old lady from a mugger, and Red saw this and got Wilbur into wrestling. So Red hooked him up with Paul Jones, but I don't know, I don't like the way Jones treats the wrestlers, and I don't like the way he treats the people. He talked about Jones tearing up a young man's autograph, and promised that young man an autographed picture. He said hi to mom and Josh and Ike back in California, and he hoped to do well while he was hear. THIS WAS THE BEST. He came off as nervous and shy but TOTALLY BELIEVABLE AND AUTHENTIC. Crockett dubbed him "A BIG MAN WITH A GOOD HEART," and he was right. This ruled.

New Breed vs. Gladiator #1 & Bob Riddle. Chris Champion was out there with a cast on his arm, and the cast had all sorts of circuitry on it to make the arm heel quicker. You know, because he got his cast in THE FUTURE. They won with an elevated flying teabag, and I'm pretty sure one of them shouted something about his nutsack.

Ronnie Garvin cut a promo, the world champion out here in a t-shirt, jeans, and suspenders. Well, it was the 80s. He screamed that Starrcade wasn't easy, it was gonna be a fight, and Flair would learn he was in there with a real man. He said he was younger, stronger, and faster than Flair, and Chicago would go down in history.

Ivan Koloff & Warlord vs. Rick Ryder & Rex King. That would be Rex King of the Southern Rockers/Well Dunn. Jones cut a promo on Wilbur during the match. He claimed this Wilbur had embarrassed him, humiliated him, and he had a brain the size of a pea! He's a fruit picker! He picks grapes! And I bet he only picked them off the ground because he didn't have the guts to pick them off the vine! They quickly pinned Ryder with an elbow/backbreaker combo. They continued beating the geeks afterwards. Jones wasn't done. He called Wilbur a condemned man, dead meat, who had humiliated him in front of millions of people, after Jones had spent weeks telling people how a KILLER was coming. He was all upset and hollering, and said he would get upset or holler. WILBUR! YOU'RE DEAD MEAT! This is the best feud of all time it is at the very, very bottom of the roster.

Ric Flair came out for a promo. On the crazy Ric Flair scale, he was about a 6. He wanted the people to know Dusty Rhodes was really a millionaire. He claimed to be in GQ and Playgirl, and made fun of Garvin's pickup and suspenders. He ran down Garvin and the Road Warriors. He promised the Horsemen would win at Starrcade and kiss the girls and make them cry.

Michael Hayes & Jimmy Garvin vs. Thunderfoot #1 & Robbie Idol. They went a minute and Hayes pinned Idol with a bulldog. The sorta-Freebirds cut a promo about STARRCADE FEVER. Garvin promised his brother would keep the world title, Dusty would win the US title, and he and Hayes would have a good time in Chicago. Hayes said hey, we have opponents, including "Rob Rechsteiner." He said nobody knew six-man tags better than him, and the heat was ON. God this was awesome.

Kevin Sullivan vs. Terry Jones. Sullivan destroyed him and won with the footstomp. He cut a promo and stole Garvin's line about Starrcade Fever. He hyped up all the matches at Starrcade, none of which he was in. He said nothing Dusty had done to this point mattered. He warned Dusty the Nassau card was a trap, and said he better watch his back in WarGames.

Another Starrcade Report. Crockett said he had talked to Dusty Rhodes, who had agreed to all of Luger's demands and put his career on the line for 90 days around the world. They introduced Jim Cornette, and said the Midnight Express and Rock & Roll Express had signed a contract to meet at Starrcade. This made Cornette giggly and happy. Then Crockett said it would be a skywalker match and Cornette barked like a frightened dog. He wanted no part of the match, he knew the Rock & Rolls had invented it, he was going to sue Crockett and all his schyster lawyers, and if they did end up up on that scaffold, there would be nobody up there to stop them from doing whatever they wanted, and somebody was gonna get their neck broke.

Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson vs. Keith Steinborn & Alan Martin. Officially, Tully and Arn did not have a match for Starrcade at this point. Arn quickly pinned Steinborn with the spinebuster and gourdbuster.

Mike Rotunda vs. Alan Martin. Uh, wut? Alan Martin is pulling double duty and getting a Florida title match? Rotunda won in a minute with an airplane spin.

New Breed came out for a promo. He said three Zandorian nightbeasts, Jim Cornette and the Midnight Express had tried to take Sean Royal out of wrestling, but Sour Stan and Ugly Bobby would never have to worry about getting back in the ring. He ran down all the Midnights, perhaps becoming the first person to use the term "fugly.".

Rock & Roll Express vs. Larry Stephens & Tony Suber. Express pinned Suber with a LITERAL schoolboy, where Morton got on his hands and knees behind him and Gibson hit a bodypress and Suber fell down and got pinned. They then cut a promo about the scaffold match.

Midnight Express vs. Italian Stallion & George South. Cornette accused the Rock & Rolls of stealing their moves. His team won with the rocket launcher.

Dillon and Lex Luger came out for a promo. Lex had the ultimate douchebag outfit, a white sweater over a pink polo with a popped collar. They were happy all their stipulations, especially the 90-day ban. They pointed out that the competition in top sports was so thick, you could be out one night and somebody could take your spot and you might never get it back. On top of that, he had the US title, the second-most prestigious championship in the sport, and Dusty had bitten off more than he could chew. He vowed this would be his night to shine. This actually may have been better than Flair's promo earlier in the show.

Eddie Gilbert came out for a promo with both TV belts. He said the top question in Starrcade was whether the UWF was better than the NWA, and that question would be answered by the Koloff-Taylor match. Um, no.

Ricky Santana vs. Thunderfoot #2. Wait, WHAT? Double duty for Thunderfoot 2, and it's against Ricky Santana? It was short and Ricky won with a top rope Thesz press. He immediately joined Crockett and cut a promo in English, then mostly in Spanish. This got no reaction. Then he said he was there to make a name for himself, and we should remember his name. I see.

WWE Retro Raw 293 (1/4/99)

Show opened with a Shawn Michaels tribute video, but then Vince McMahon ordered them to cut it off halfway through, and came out to the ring with his crew. They taped a Brisco Bros. Body Shop on Kane's back like a geek. Vince was ranting about how Shawn would never appear in the company again when they put Shawn up on the big screen, walking around. Vince was ordering his guys to kill Shawn when HBK appeared on stage. He said the cavalry was with him, and DX came out too. Shawn said his contract as commissioner was ironclad, and Vince had said on national TV he answered to nobody. He would be commissioner until he resigned. He showed the video of Vince announcing himself in the Royal Rumble. He said he had control over all superstars except Steve Austin, which meant he now had control over Vince. So Vince would not be entering the Rumble at 30, he would be entering at 2, along side Steve Austin at 1. Shawn promised he was going to leave the building and bring Vince a surprise, and he guaranteed the surprise would drive Vince stone cold crazy. This was a good promo, and it suddenly hit me what a great, great setup all of this would have been for a WarGames. Alas.

Ken Shamrock vs. Steve Blackman. Well this would have been more fun as a shoot. Speaking of shooters, Dan Severn came out in his neckbrace. He gave Shamrock what Lawler called an "icy UFC stare." He took the ref, Billy Gunn ran out and hit Shamrock with a fame asser, and Blackman got the pin.

Shamrock and Billy were brawling in the hallways backstage. This is all part of a big push to Gunn challenging Shamrock for the Intercontinental title. Remember that.

Mankind came out. He told a few jokes about balls and the Stooges, then said he loved beating up the McMahons. He asked for a title shot against the Rock at the Royal Rumble. He pointed to a sign saying Foley is God and said no, but I'm pretty damn good, and I beat the Rock at Rock Bottom, and I deserve a title shot. He asked the fans if he could say ass on TV, and asked "Dad" to come out. Vince came out and let everyone know the Corporation was watching his back. He called Mankind a disillusioned, disfigured, decrepit monster. He said Foley had had opportunities in the past, but had screwed them up. He buried Mankind for beating up Shane, and said he had not paid his dues to earn a title shot. Maybe someday he could get a hardcore title shot, but he had screwed that up lately too. He said he would give Mankind one opportunity to get close to the title, and booked him in a match against Triple H, with the winner going into the Royal Rumble, and Shane would be the special ref in the match. Another good promo tonight.

Chyna and her "girlfriend" were shown chatting backstage. It was a redhead in a slinky leopard print dress.

Mark Henry vs. Goldust. Goldust actually got this monster up for a spinebuster. Chyna came out with her girlfriend, which distracted Henry. Goldust laid him out and hit the kick to the balls. There was no bell, Goldust's music just played and he left. We were told this was a DQ, which was the only rational decision. Lawler outright said that Goldust lost the match and didn't care. Chyna kissed Mark on the cheek and said the other night with him had been incredible, but he was way too much man for one woman. He introduced her friend Sammy. She knew Mark liked tall women and exotic dancers. She said they could take a load off Mark's mind, and he fainted.

Dennis Knight was chained up in a dungeon with scary music, begging for help. I am not making this up. "That looked horrible!" Lawler noted. Welcome to MONDAY NIGHT SAW!.

Godfather vs. Test. What the fuck was this music for Test? A sax solo? Val Venis came out to watch, fresh chop print on his chest. Match was a terrible brawl that spilled out of and back into the ring. Test posted Godfather for the DQ. Yes. Val and Test started brawling but got separated.

They cut backstage where Shawn and DX were all chummy.

Triple H vs. Mankind with Shane as ref. They went back and forth for a few minutes without incident. Then Hunter hit a sunset flip and Shane counted as fast as possible and Hunter won. Hunter cut a promo saying business was business, and a win was a win, and he would take it any way he could get it. Shane raised his hand. But, Hunter said, "Happy New Year," and he hit Shane with a pedigree. "He's all yours." And he left. Mankind took the mic and said he had learned this move from his high school wrestling coach. He put on something like a rings of Saturn with a leg grapevine. He threatened to break Shane's shoulder if Vince didn't come out, then demanded a title match tonight. He held the mic to Shane's face so Shane could scream. Vince agreed to the match, and also to Mick's demands to make it no-DQ. Mankind agreed, and released the hold and left through the crowd. God damn this was great. Wait, there's more. Rock came out and asked how Vince could have given in to Manind's demands so easily. Vince chewed him out and told him to act like a champion. My god this was awesome.

Edge vs. D-Lo Brown. Edge did the craziest, most out-of-control plancha early. PMS came out. Terri is getting pregnanter. She distracted D-Lo, who went after her, and she fell off the stairs to the floor. Jacqueline and the ref started screaming for help. D-Lo was horrified. They got her onto a stretcher and started strapping her down totally at random and went to break.

Fucking Francois Petit was backstage in his wacky coat with a stethoscope, and was surprised to hear she was pregnant.

Kane came out wth Shane and the Stooges. They were bullying him with the sign on his back and everything. Shane then announced Kane vs. "the Stooges" in a handicap match. The Stooges protested, but Vince came out on stage and said everyone remotely responsible for Shane's emotional scarring had to pay, and he ordered Kane to make them pay. They tried to bribe him with money and cigarettes, and I believe a condom. It didn't work. Brisco got chokeslammed. Patterson grabbed a chair and offered Kane a seat, but Kane kicked the chair out of the ring and chokeslammed him. He began to attack their balls. Michael Cole said this was just awful. Why? They're assholes getting what they deserve. Kane grabbed Shane, but Vince warned him "you'll go back." He declared Kane the winner. Well OK then. Vince and Shane hugged.

Dennis Knight was begging for help when the Acolytes stepped up and said it was time, "he's ready for you.".

Road Dogg vs. Al Snow for the Hardcore title. Al's shirt was still dyed red, but at least he had showered this week. Al used Head as a decoy to jump Road Dogg before he could do his promo. They hit each other in the head a lot. Al went through a table when he missed a moonsault. They brawled over by the side of the stage and Al went through another table. They disappeared in the hallways of the building. Al choked Dogg with his hose. They found potted plants and started throwing them at each other. Al went through a door and the fire alarm went off, and then they were fighting in the falling snow outside. OK, this is great now. Dogg grabbed him and hit a piledriver through some pallets for the win. I'm not thrilled watching all these weapons to the head, but Road Dogg's hardcore title reign was very good, with standout matches every week. He ran back to the ring and celebrated to a massive ovation.

Meanwhile, the Acolytes threw Dennis Knight through a moon door.

Shawn said goodbye to DX and promised to be right back. "Maybe not," Hunter said. "What goes around comes around," X-Pac said. Outside, Shawn's keys wouldn't open his car. He went to get the right keys when somebody called his name, and they went to commercial.

When they came back, they showed Bossman and Shamrock jumping Shawn, and then we heard the beating after the camera fell down. Shawn was now a bloody mess and lying facedown in a broken windshield. Cole was screaming that the Corporation had gone too far. Um, what about DX? They set the guy up to be massacred.

Mankind vs. Rock. DX, those assholes, came out to be in Mankind's corner. Lawler, an idiot, asked if they knew what had happened to Shawn. They said Rock wasn't ready and didn't have his wrestling attire. Lawler also promised there would not be a "schmozz." "Not like the other league," Cole noted. Match was just a brawl outside the ring with Rock whipping Mankind's ass. Rock stopped to do his own commentary, which proved to be a mistake. Then he hit Mankind in the head with a ring bell and choked him with a cord. He hit a Rock bottom through the announce desk. At this point they moved to the ring and a wrestling match broke out. Well, it's not falls count anywhere. Mankind made his comeback, but they distracted him and Rock hit a beltshot for a nearfall. Mankind then hit a DDT onto the belt for another nearfall. He went for the sock and hooked the claw, but Shamrock hit him with a chair. Billy wiped out Shamrock and everyone started brawling. And then the glass shattered. My god. My god in heaven almighty, the noise. Steve Austin ran out, waffled Rock right in the head, and left. Foley dragged himself over and threw an arm on top and the ref did the most dramatic three-count of all time, and Mankind was the new heavyweight champion of the world. This was all every bit as amazing as I remember. Chill after chill ran down my spine. And then it was NOT to the back. Everyone celebrated forever. The Corporation tried to regroup, with Vince promising Rock he would get another shot. DX carried Mankind around the ring, then announced him as the new champion. Mankind cut a promo dedicating the win to his children at home, then did a lap around the ring with his new belt as the show faded to black. The disparity in quality between Raw and Nitro was never greater than it was here.

The finishes on this show were: pin after outside interference; DQ due to intentional kick to world's strongest balls; DQ for throwing a guy into the post; pin due to fast count by crooked referee; non-finish due to miscarriage; one guy just declared the winner mid-match; greatest finish ever.

WCW Monday Nitro 173 (1/4/99)

When you load this show on the Network, the teaser pic is Hulk Hogan about to put his finger in Kevin Nash's chest. Wow, they're not burying the lede here, are they?.

The music video that opened the show, highlighting Nash's championship win, was fraught with doom and gloom. How apropos.

They announced that Hulk Hogan had retired, but he would be there tonight to thank his fans for all their support. Gee, that's swell.

The Nitro Party winner had a party in a suite at the Georgia Dome. This guy and all his buddies had signs that were pro-Goldberg and anti-nWo. Oh, you poor fools. Reporter geek asked who they were cheering for tonight and they all said Goldberg.

Glacier vs. Hugh Morrus. They announced it was the biggest crowd in Nitro history. For THIS SHOW. I'm actually getting depressed watching this. I'm watching a company die and there's nothing I can do about it. This was a squash for Hugh. He destroyed Glacier, they did some shenanigans with Jimmy Hart, and Hugh won with a moonsault.

Recap of the angle and match last week that put Ric Flair in charge of the company. Like, THE WHOLE THING. Is this going 20 minutes?.

RICHARD M. FLAIR arrived at the building with his family and Arn Anderson. It took him a long fucking time to climb out of his limo and walk through the dome and down to the ring. Hey, wait, that's Charlotte! She's the last wrestler left from the Nitro era! A low-key, almost out-of-character Flair cut a promo about how Bischoff's reign of terror had lasted five years. He called out Bischoff, threatening to fire him if he didn't show. Eric came out, and Flair talked about how Bischoff had humiliated him in front of peers like Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. The easy thing would be to fire him, but just as Bischoff had taken him out of main events and put him in the openers, he was putting Bischoff at the announce desk to work for Tony Schiavonie. And he could cut Bischoff's pay in half, since he wouldn't be on TV anymore. They showed Bischoff firing Randy Anderson after his cancer treatment and in front of his kids. He brought Anderson out, re-hired him, and doubled his salary. Flair thanked Booker T, DDP, Schiavonie, and everyone who celebrated with him last week, and thanked Randy Savage for his contributions last week. Flair then booked himself in a handicap match against Curt Hennig & Barry Windham for Souled Out. Well that's a stupid thing to do. David Flair then interrupted. Here we go. He said he had been watching Ric since he was real young, and he wanted to be Ric's partner at the PPV. Flair said David wasn't ready, but Arn said he knew what he was doing. Flair double-checked with David, then said OK. And he told everyone to enjoy the show.

This show is more than 30 minutes old, plus commercials, and there have been maybe three minutes of wrestling.

Booker T vs. Emery Hale. Hale didn't get an entrance, and I don't think he even got a graphic. They fucked up the first thing they did. Booker had to save that by muscling the big fucker around, then immediately took it home and won with the missile dropkick. This was funny. Still less than four minutes of wrestling on the show.

Norman Smiley vs. Chavo Guerrero Jr. This needed a rematch? Schiavonie gave Bischoff instructions on how to be an announcer, including having four producers shouting at you to say things you already said and you had to say it again anyway. So what was the highlight here? Chavo riding the hobby horse around the ring? The horse-eye-cam they were using in the corner? Norman using a keylock on the TOE? Norman dancing, then fainting, then Chavo doing the dance? Chavo fucking up a springboard, a DDT, and a rollup all at once? Chavo won with a sunset flip. A fucking atrocious match. Norman jumped him afterwards and beat up the horse. I fucking hated this.

Chris Benoit vs. Horace. No entrance for Benoit. I'm guessing it was edited out for something uncomfortable. Horace took the whole match, even hitting a tope, but Benoit cut him off with a superplex and hit the diving headbutt. He sold the headbutt though, and Horace just went back on offense. Was Horace supposed to dodge the headbutt and forgot? Benoit hooked the crossface out of nowhere for the win. One of Benoit's worse matches.

They cut backstage, where the police were informing Goldberg they had a warrant for his arrest. Goldberg started listing all the positive things he did for the community, and said nobody could take him in for something he didn't do, and insisted he was innocent. He basically dared them to arrest him. He came off like a total dick. He told them to shoot him and mace him. They went back and forth with this for several minutes. They were using real cops, and they were terrible actors. One of them eventually got him to listen to reason and get cuffed and taken in to the precinct. He still insisted he would be vindicated and this was wrong.

Goldberg was still being led outside after the break. Nash came outside to harrass the cops, insisting he had a match with Goldberg tonight. The cops drove away with Goldberg. Hogan showed up, laughing, saying he believed men should be arrested if they were guilty. He walked by Elizabeth, who was talking to cops.

Chris Jericho vs. Saturn. First good thing on the show. Comeback was especially great, as Jericho was doing fantastic wacky selling for all of Saturn's suplexes. Finally Saturn tried a dive and Jericho pulled the ref in the way, then hit a low blow on Saturn. He went for the Boston crab and the ref called for the bell before he even got the hold on. This was the same ref who Saturn DVD'd a few weeks back. Wrestler-referee feuds are lame.

Goldberg was at the police precinct "across the street," Schiavonie noted. Somehow the cameraman knew where they were going before the cops and Goldberg went there. Goldberg was led to an office, where they told him "Elizabeth Labetski" had filed charges for aggravated stalking. He had no idea who that was, and they told him it was Miss Elizabeth. He told them to do their job, and it was not him.

Thumb wrestling at the Nitro Party. You fucking dorks. You are so uncool it makes me angry. They were screaming to free Goldberg, except one guy who said it was his favorite part.

They had cameras there to show the cops interviewing Elizabeth. Nice of the cop to let them shoot that. Liz said he was following her in every arena they went to, in the airports, the hotels, the gym. The cops went to talk outside.

The LWO was having a party with some lowriders and mamacitas. This was like a primitive version of Latino Heat Eddie Guerrero. They all left to party, but El Dandy was ordered to stay back and park the cars. Inside, they were dancing to mariachi music and women were calling Eddie both rico and suave. Eddie and the bodyguard pulled Texano aside. Next shot, Eddie was on a couch with all the women while the other dudes were sitting with no women looking bored and irritated. A card game broke out. Eddie told them to say thanks for all the money and women. He ordered Dandy and Damian to make some drinks, then took their seats at the card game. Guys were bitching in the hallway. Outside, women were chanting "LWO" as Eddie gave a speech.

What in the fuck was that.

Rey Mysterio Jr. & Kidman vs. Psicosis & Juventud Guerrera in a tornado match. Well, we were TOLD it was a tornado match, but then the bell rang and lo and behold dudes were on the aprons waiting for tags. Heat on Rey. Nobody cared. Maybe it should have been a tornado match. Then a four-way broke out and Tony said tornado rules were in effect. I changed my mind. Fuck this company. I'm glad they're dead. Then there was heat on Rey again. What the fuck is going on here? Rey and Juvi were countering each other and Kidman accidentally hit Rey with a missile dropkick. Psicosis followed with a Tijuana jam for the win. Well this was shitty.

Goldberg told the cops yeah, WCW books me and Liz in the same arenas and airports and hotels, and the gym she goes to? I own it!.

Mean Gene called Nash out for a promo. Nash said Goldberg had been screwed at Starrcade, and that Hogan was behind the rigamarole Goldberg was going through tonight. He asked Flair to book him against Hogan tonight. That would be a warmup, he said, because by the end of the night he'd be facing Goldberg for the world title. Flair appeared. Flair agreed that Hogan was pulling Goldberg's strings, and confirmed that Hogan was under contract. He said if Goldberg couldn't make it back to the building, Nash would face Hogan instead. Important distinctions there between what Nash and Flair said.

Liz was still being interviewed and said she didn't want to repeat herself. She claimed to be buying a Diet Pepsi at the Coke machine when she saw Goldberg in red tights. That might be the funniest thing I've ever written right there. This horrible, awful, no-good, very bad scene continued. It would be one thing to say I've seen porn scenes with better acting, but that's not going far enough. It would be more fitting to say that I've never seen acting this BAD in a porn movie. Just cringeworthy bad.

Mean Gene called Hogan out for an interview. He came out to a chorus of boos. They played the nWo theme, but you could still hear Jimi Hendrix underneath it. He called Goldberg a sexual deviant, and seeing him escorted out of the building made him sick to his stomach. He called Nash a "big tall spoon" and said he wasn't afraid to fight him. He said he owed the fans one last retirement match, and he was going to retire with the world title.

Earlier Today, Chris Jericho was shown sucking up to the ref who disqualified Saturn tonight and telling him to DQ Saturn to prove he was in charge.

Scott Steiner vs. Konnan. Scott cut a promo offering to fuck the women in the crowd. He claimed that since he won the TV title, WCW couldn't censor him. Buff started to do the Dirty Bird, then made fun of the Atlanta Falcons coach for legitimately having life-saving triple bypass surgery on his heart. That's nice. Cute spot at the start of the match where Konnan attacked them both before getting cut off. Here was the point where Tony let the people at home know that on the other channel, Mick Foley was going to win the world title. "That's gonna be their world champion. HA HA." Konnan seemed less blown up than usual this week. He went for the tequila sunrise when Buff hit the ring for the DQ. The fake ref ran in and declared Steiner the winner via submission. They worked Konnan over for a while and nobody from the Wolfpac or WCW bothered to do anything about it.

Wrath came out for a promo. "Goldberg's jailbait," Bischoff mumbled. I don't think he knows what jailbait means. Wrath said he had been plowing through competition for months, and the people wanted to see a meltdown, but Wrath couldn't find competition. He called out anyone to come fight him.

Wrath vs. Bam Bam Bigelow. Bischoff called Goldberg a "prison punk." Well, that's better. The dudes brawled everywhere, up the aisle, and nobody really cared. They hit the ring for ten seconds and went back inside. OK, we get it, call for the bell. And eventually they did but the terrible brawl continued.

OH GOD MORE WITH ELIZABETH. They asked about the last time Goldberg bothered her, and she couldn't remember if it was at the water fountain or a Coke machine or Pepsi machine. They asked about her watch. She couldn't remember if he was wearing black tights or red tights. They started to threaten her with perjury, then stepped outside. This all so, so, so, so much worse than I remembered. Liz suddenly said it must have not been Bill, it must have been some other bald wrestler, and please apologize to him for me.

Eric started to snore. I'm sure he was not the only one.

DDP vs. Brian Adams. This went through a break. No Brian Adams match should ever go through a break. Bearhug. Every 15 minutes Bischoff would mumble something in a creepy, breathy voice. BY GOLLY. People did get into Page's comeback as he fought off Adams and Vincent, and went crazy when he hit the diamond cutter for the win. Gee, it's like they were really, really eager to see one of WCW's heros go into battle and emerge triumphant.

They took the cuffs off Goldberg and said they were taking him to the dome. There are 12 minutes left on the broadcast, plus at least one commercial break. Somebody sent me a Google map this week showing it was like a ten-minute walk to the stadium from the police office. Part of Buffer's intro for Nash: "Although he is a native of Detroit, Michigan, his accomplishments and glory in professional wrestling make him a citizen of the world." His neverending pyro became self parody, as even Nash was looking back like, is this still going? Then he pointed to the back, where Scott Hall came out in a Wolfpac and they hugged, and now there was MORE PYRO. Steiner was out there in Hogan's corner too. Fans were chanting for Goldberg as the opening bell rang. They stalled for a minute or two, then had a faceoff. Nash pushed him into the corner. Hogan poked him in the chest, Nash took a giant bump, and Hogan covered him for the pin. You've got to watch the fans here. They all stood up with blank expressions and just froze, unable to process what was going on. A car pulled up and Goldberg jumped out and ran to the ring to kill everyone. Place was going crazy. Lex Luger appeared to watch Goldberg's back, but then turned on him and put him in the rack. They cuffed Goldberg to the ropes and started tasing him and spraypainting his back. Then they started painting his head, which he was NOT happy about. Show ended with nWo tagging the belt and Nash saying "DEJA VU!" Yes, two and a half years after Hogan was the third man at Bash at the Beach, they're just starting over again. This was all sad to watch, but at the same time WCW totally deserved to die and the real shame is that it lasted as long as it did.

The finishes on this show were: Pin after Jimmy Hart got involved in some way; clean pin; clean pin in a terrible match; clean submission; DQ due to a crooked ref; clean pin; DQ due to attack with belt; double-countout or something; clean pin; pin due to fingerpoke.

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 12 (1/4/18)

Minoru Suzuki vs. Hirooki Goto for the NEVER Openweight title and hair vs. hair. Suzuki tried a sleeper in the corner, and at one point he was sitting on the top turnbuckle with a sleeper on, hanging Goto by his head. This seemed to put Goto out quickly, as you can imagine. The ref and doctors kept trying to check if Goto was, you know, alive, but Suzuki chased them away and turned up the attack. He destroyed Goto on the floor, smashing him with a chair and foot-slapping him repeatedly. Don Callis is really good on commentary, but it's weird to hear a straight heel commentator on a New Japan show. Goto made a big slappy comeback but Suzuki just howled with laughter and elbowed him back down. Suzuki may be the closest thing to a Godzilla monster out of any human walking the earth. I mean, he's not that big, but you just watch him walk around, and he looks like he should be fighting off tanks and tearing high-tension wires down. Goto showed signs of life, avoiding the penalty kick and hitting a bulldog. Suzuki went for the sleeper again, but Goto suplexed his way free. He tried a fireman's carry, but Suzuki turned it into a guillotine, then transitioned to the sleeper, then tried the Gotch piledriver. Callis noted this never worked. Well, he we was right. They teased finishers and Goto hit the ushigoroshi. All the seconds tried to hit the ring, even though they had been barred from this match. Suzuki started working Goto over like a speed bag, just dozens of head and body shots, then hooked the sleeper again. The ref was about to stop the fight, but Suzuki released the hold to try the piledriver again. It failed again. They fought up top and Suzuki tried a guillotine up there, but Goto turned it into an avalanche ushigoroshi. That looked fucking lethal. Goto tried to kill Suzuki with a hundred elbows, but failed. Then he hit a DDT onto the knee, then a reverse DDT onto the knee, and won. What? That's it? Well that came totally out of nowhere. Like, in no way did I buy that those elbows and those two moves were enough to finish Suzuki off. It was like he took a dive. His flunkies tried to take him away to save him from a haircut, but he shoved them away to take his punishment like a man. He set up a chair, sat down, and began to shave his own head. He didn't finish the job, but he left a pile of hair in the chair. He did the best sell ever, this little twitch of humiliation, and made his exit. He's the best. I feel like there was another three or four minutes of this match at the end that got chopped off. (***3/4).

Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay vs. Hiromu Takahashi vs. Kushida for Scurll's IWGP Jr. Heavyweight title. They did mass high-speed highspots for two or three minutes, then Kushida hit a flip dive from the post to the floor, and Ospreay did a moonsault off the lighting rig onto everyone. Back in, he tried a running shooting star press, but Kushida got the knees up, and THAT, of all things, was a nearfall. Ospreay tried a springboard something or other, but Kushida caught him in a flying armbar in midair. That was awesome. Then Kushida tried the hoverboard lock while Scurll was doing the chickenwing, and Scurll had to release his hold to break up Kushida's. They did the longest, flippiest four-way spot of the year. Then they had a four-way brawl from their knees like kids playing in a pool. Everyone hit a big move. Soon it was overkill, and I started to tune out. When everything's a big move, nothing's a big move. Scurll took Takahashi outside and taped him to the guardrail, then snapped his fingers. He went to do the same to the other two, but they snapped his fingers instead, then Kushida hit an avalanche cross armbreaker. That ruled. Ospreay fought that off, so Kushida turned it into a triangle. Ospreay powered him up and hit a buckle bomb. Nothing happened for like two minutes, then Scurll threw powder in Kushida's face, but Kushida was able to hit a small package driver. Takahashi returned and started hitting sunset powerbombs on everyone, then the time bomb on Scurll for a nearfall. A bunch more stuff happened, then Kushida hit Takahashi with a sunset bomb, then Ospreay hit a shooting star press to people on the floor. More dives, more kickouts. Takahashi had Ospreay pinned with a timebomb, but Scurll pulled the ref out of the ring and began to MURDER PEOPLE IN THE FACE with the umbrella. And finally Ospreay pinned Scurll with an Oscutter to win the match and the title. This was good, but would have been better if they had gone five minutes shorter and done half as much stuff. (***).

Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho. I don't know what video game character Omega was cosplaying for his entrance, but it was impressive. Jericho had no idea what to make of it. Jericho hooked the Boston crab early. Omega got the ropes, but Jericho pointed out to the ref it was no-DQ. So Omega fought his way free. He kicked Jericho out of the ring and onto the announce desk, but when he tried a dive, Jericho dodged and Omega went through the table right into Callis. Jericho put Omega in the crab, then smacked the ref, then put the ref's son in the crab. Everyone hated Jericho now, that was for sure. Well, most of them. Omega laid a plastic table across Jericho, then did a footstomp to the table. They went back and forth a bit, but when Omega tried a springboard, Jericho dropkicked him in the bad knee. Omega almost fell on his face to boot. Jericho set up a table and stopped to badmouth Masahiro Chono. He teased a powerbomb through the table, then slamed him onto the floor instead. He took a bunch of pictures for a photographer. Jericho hit the Lionsault, but Omega fired up and clotheslined him out of the ring, then followed with a huge dive. And then suddenly a WWE match broke out, as they started countering all the big moves, and Jericho did all the counters into the Boston crab he always does. Omega found a can of cold spray and blinded Jericho with it, calling him by name to get his attention first. There was a chair wedged into the corner, and Omega went into it a few times. Jericho was such a WWE heel, taunting the crowd and posing in the corner. Kenny fired up and hit the snapdragon suplex, which is a cool move with a cool name. He hit that a few times, but then Jericho broke the chair over his head. You could see from the way he was holding it it was gimmicked somehow. He destroyed another chair over Omega's back. He went up top with the chair, but Omega kicked it into his face, then hit the V trigger, and Jericho took the safest bump through a table of all time. Omega hit a series of kicks and knees and a double underhook piledriver for a nearfall. He tried a one-winged angel, but in one of the best spots I've ever seen, Jericho rolled through and turned it into the crab. If you told me this whole thing started because Jericho saw that move and realized he could turn it into the crab, and that inspired him to put this whole thing in motion, I would totally believe you. He turned it into the lion tamer, with the knee in the back, then back to a standard crab, sitting low on the back. Omega dragged himself to the ropes to break his way free. Then he hit the one-winged angel, but Jericho was able to grab the ropes. Omega tried some combo but Jericho caught him with the codebreaker out of nowhere for a nearfall. Jericho wacked him a few times with a chair and tried the lionsault, but Omega threw the chair at him. This left Jericho perched in the ropes, and Omega came up behind him, herced him onto his shoulders, and and hit the angel onto the chair for the win. God this was great. GREAT GREAT GREAT. Can't really think of any way it could have been better. (*****).

Kazuchika Okada vs. Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP championship. OK, first things first: Okada's pants were awesome, and if you can't see that right away there's something wrong with you. They mangled their very first spot so badly they just gave up halfway through, then restarted and got it right. The good news is they are so great their fuck-ups are better than most guys successes and it did nothing to hurt the match. Announcers talking about Dave Meltzer's star ratings was fascinating and hysterical stuff. Callis needs to stop saying "stiff elbow." They did a high spot that ended with Naito sitting on the top rope and Okada dropkicking him out of the ring. This backfired, though, because Naito caught him with a neckbreaker onto the barricade. Crowd really hated Naito as he worked Okada over. That surprised me. Okada made a comeback and ran a lap around the ring to boot Naito in the face. Naito bumped on his head on the floor for that, which I don't advise. Okada then hit a draping DDT on the floor. Okada avoided Gloria and hit the highest damn flapjack you ever saw. He hooked a cobra clutch and Naito couldn't escape, no matter how many reversals and counters he tried. And then he basically had a seizure that allowed him to grab the ropes. He hit a flurry of offense, including a reverse rana from the top that spiked Okada on top of his head and Gloria, but he missed a stardust press. After like 20 minutes of great wrestling, they just went face to face in the middle of the ring and elbowed the fuck out of each other, going right into the Frye-Takayama spot. Naito did the Shawn Michaels spot where you get whipped into the ropes but then come back with a big forearm. Okada missed a missile dropkick and landed HARD on the mat, but came back and suplexed Naito onto his head, then rainmakered him onto his head for a nearfall. I seem to be typing "onto his head a lot here." Okada went back to the cobra clutch, but Naito turned it into the destino. This led to a long double-down and the Tokyo Dome was going nuts. They traded elbows from their knees, almost collapsing onto each other, then got to their feet for more strikes. Dome was just rocking. Okada ran out of gas, and Naito spat in his face and slapped the hell out of him. They did a spot in the corner where earlier Okada had hit a white noise, but this time Naito turned it almost into a Canadian destroyer. Okada was done and everyone knew it, but when Naito tried destino, Okada turned it into a rainmaker. He tried another, but Naito turned that into destino for one of the best nearfalls of all time. Whole dome was fooled. Suddenly Okada busted out his dropkick, and got his knees, clearly possessed by the devil. He tried a rainmaker, but Naito hit a destino. Naito popped up and pointed to the corner for the stardust press, but changed his mind and tried the destino again. AND THAT WAS HIS FATAL FLAW, because Okada turned that into the tombstone and then hit the rainmaker for the win. Naito had this thing won but made one critical mistake, and that gave Okada the one opening he needed. This blew Jericho and Omega out of the water and may well have been the best match I've ever seen. Hey, if Dave can do this, I can too. (******)


Bryan's TV Reviews


by Bryan Alvarez (@bryanalvarez)


AJ Styles promo. His New Year's Resolution is to go to WrestleMania and walk out as WWE Champion. Other resolution is to beat Sami Zayn tonight. Wants to know if Bryan is going to allow Kevin Owens to remain in Sami Zayn's corner. Bryan comes out. Before he can speak Shane comes out to steal the show. He apologizes to AJ for his interference last week which cost AJ the match. Says he's been accused of having a vendetta against Kevin and Sami. Says he has legitimate issues with them but he believes it's Bryan who has a kinship with both Owens and Zayn. Why, he says, would you ever let Sami come down to ringside last week. His bigger question is whether Bryan is turning the YES movement into the YEP movement. Shane says if Kevin Owens is going to be in Sami's corner than I'm going to be down here at ringside myself. Bryan says since you've declared yourself to be at ringside we may as well have Kevin Owens out here too. Fans boo. Bryan is shocked. AJ should be appalled at this suggestion, since Owens is Sami's partner and Shane screwed AJ last week. But he's fine with this. WHY? Bryan then adds he'll be at ringside too.

Benjamin & Gable vs. Usos for the tag titles. They actually do the dives AFTER commercial this week. Couldn't believe my eyes. Well, the main reason was the dive was part of the comeback. Gable and Benjamin ran roughshod on them, then hit their finish for the clean pin. BUT WAIT. The Usos start arguing with the ref. Another ref rushes down to the ring and explains that, in fact, Gable and Benjamin pinned THE WRONG TWIN. They showed a replay and legit, even knowing what was going on, I couldn't figure out which twin was which. We are alerted that BOTH guys involved in the finish were not the legal men. Anyway, the referee restarts the match. They did an awesome spot where the babyfaces went for their finish but the first Uso ducked and the second Uso hit a superkick knocking Gable out of mid-air. They superkick both guys and then splash Benjamin for the pin. Good match, a Dusty finish is fine every once in awhile.

Renee with Kevin and Sami. She wants to know if they think Bryan and Shane being there will affect the outcome. They do not think it will affect the outcome. They love Daniel Bryan. Say he's just being a great GM. THEY'RE PUSHING HARD THAT THEY'RE IN CAHOOTS WITH BRYAN WHICH MAKES ME THINK SHANE IS GOING HEEL.

Bludgeon Brothers vs. Breezango. Match doesn't start. Bludgeon Brothers are killing them before the bell when Ascension runs down. Brothers beat them up as well. Lay out Viktor with their finish. So now what? .

New Day promo. Xavier is ready to become the Intercontinental Champion. Rusev and Aiden English show up. Aiden's New Year's wish is that every day could be Rusev Day. Rusev is disgusted about their pancakes and such. Blows out their candles.

Aiden vs. Xavier. Starts with Rusev singing a song for Aiden. He was excellently bad. Still nowhere near as bad as Miztourage on Monday. Winner faces Jinder Mahal next. They have a fun enough little match which Xavier wins with a flying elbow. Best part is Rusev's look of utter sadness outside the ring. Jinder smiles backstage at this outcome. Xavier vs. Jinder is next.

Dasha with Natalya, Carmella, Tamina and Lana. They cut a promo on Riot Squad while all facing the camera shoulder-to-shoulder. Was bad, seen worse.

Riot Squad vs. Natalya & Carmella & Tamina. Liv started with Natalya and looked fine. They go to commercial and come back and HEELS HAVE THE HEAT. How? Who the fuck knows. HENCE WHY NOBODY CARES ABOUT MATCHES ANYMORE.

AND SUDDENLY A BIZARRE GLITCH. Went from the women's match to Daniel Bryan coming down to ringside for the opening segment, then a commercial, then the heels were making their entrance for the main event. This was bizarre.

Sami Zayn vs. AJ Styles with Shane McMahon, Kevin Owens and Daniel Bryan at ringside. Did see the finish. AJ had the win but the ref had been bumped outside. He's trying to get in there to count but Kevin won't let him. He finally gets in there but Sami kicks out. Shane shoves Owens and then tells the ref to eject Kevin. Bryan says listen, if you're throwing Ken out, why don't you leave with him. Fans chant "YES YES YES!" Everyone is distracted and Sami hits the kick for the pin. AJ is furious afterwards, noting he lost twice in a row because of Shane and Bryan. Says he doesn't know who's side who is on, but they need to stop bickering like children. Says he wants to face these guys without the other appearing, so damn it, give me a handicap match! And Bryan says fine, it's AJ vs. Sami and Kevin in a handicap match at Royal Rumble. AJ is then disappointed. Announcers claim AJ wasn't serious when he seriously asked for it ten seconds prior. They're totally overthinking this now.

NJPW Wrestling Kingdom 12

Rappongi 3K vs. Young Bucks for the IWGP Jr. Tag Team Titles. Rocky Romero is at ringside as the DIRECTOR. Both teams fight over Sharpshooters early. Sho and Yo then hit big dives to the outside. Thankfully, no COMMERCIAL BREAK. But Yo sells it like he destroyed his back on the landing. Gets on the apron and Nick gives him a German suplex on the apron. Bucks then kill Romero with a running powerbomb on the ramp. Bucks kill Yo. Matt misses a dive to the outside and crashes and burns and sells like he's seriously injured his back. Even avoids getting tagged in to sell it. Finally takes Yo outside for another powerbomb but he backdrops Matt on the ramp. Nick then tries a dive but misses and hits Matt. Sho hot tag, runs wild on both guys, including hitting a double German suplex. 3K keeps going for the 3K but its countered. Bucks kill Yo with a combo senton to the back, just crushed. Matt with a sharpshooter but Yo gets the ropes. Sho and Yo with double single leg crabs. Matt tries to tap but Nick stops his hand from hitting the mat. Cool spot, but seriously, if I'm a referee, THAT'S A SUBMISSION BASED ON INTENT. So all of a sudden, Bucks just hit the Meltzer driver and put Yo in the sharpshooter for the submission. Felt like it came out of nowhere. With that said, this was a great match, the psychology was awesome, and Bucks are the new seven-time champions. ***3/4.

Gauntlet match for the NEVER Openweight Tag Team Titles. TAICHI & IIZUKA & ZACK SABRE JR. VS. MICHAEL ELGIN & WAR MACHINE starts. Suzuki-Gun attacks at the bell. Worked over Hanson for awhile, the world's largest babyface in peril. Rowe got the hot tag. Breaks down into a six-way. Hanson misses a moonsault. War Machine is setting up for the fallout when Taichi takes the ref. Suzuki-gun interferes. Sabre puts the triangle/armbar on Rowe and the ref stops the match. ISHII & YANO & TRENT BARETTA VS. SUZUKI-GUN. Chaos attacks them at the bell. Everyone's going at a million miles per hour when Yano low-blows Taichi and cradles him for the pin. JUICE ROBINSON & TAGUCHI & MAKABE VS. ISHII & YANO & TRENT BARETTA. The graphic on the screen randomly mentioned David Finlay in this match. This also quickly breaks down into a six-way. Taguchi does this huge tribute to Nakamura and then tries the running hip attack, but Yano ducks and cradles him for the pin. THAT FINISH WAS AWESOME. FALE & TAMA TONGA & TANGA LOA VS. ISHII & YANO & BARETTA. Tanga with the giant DVD on Baretta on the apron. Ishii runs wild on everyone. Looked like he accidentally kicked Fale in the nuts. Tries to give him the brainbuster. Fails several times before finally hitting it. That was amazing. Another awesome spot where Baretta goes for a moonsault and Tama hits the stun gun in mid-air. Baretta finally hits the DUDEBUSTER to win the NEVER OPENWEIGHT SIX-MAN TITLES for his team. ***.

Cody vs. Kota Ibushi. They did a dive spot early and Brandi gets wiped out. Ibushi is horrified. He goes to pick her up to presumably take her to safety and Cody punches him in the face. Brandi then reveals she faked the bump. Later, Brandi takes the ref and Cody waffles Ibushi with chairshots. Ibushi finally avoids one, hits a sliding dropkick and the golden triangle moonsault. But Brandi interferes again and Cody snaps Ibushi's neck on the top rope. They end up on the apron and Cody gives him a crossroads off the apron to the floor. They showed a replay and it was actually totally safe, Ibushi just did a diving forward roll, but still. Tries another one in the ring but Ibushi reverses and lawn darts him into the corner. I hate that spot. Finish saw Cody go for the disaster kick, Ibushi avoided it, booted him in the face, then went up top and hits the Phoenix splash for the pin. Too much hijinx early but you're going to get that in a Cody match, the last half was very good and the finish was great. ***3/4.

Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer vs. EVIL & Sanada for the IWGP Tag Team Titles. Smith and Archer immediately hit the Killer Bomb on EVIL but it's broken up. Smith and Archer just destroy the hell out of them outside, plus Archer slams the hell out of a bunch of young boys outside. Smith lifts them back up and Archer chokeslams EVIL onto them. They isolate Sanada and work him over for a long time. EVIL gets the hot tag and makes a big comeback. Brawls up top with Archer and Archer hits EVIL with a modified Spanish fly. Archer didn't actually do the flip but EVIL did. Breaks down into a four-way. Magic killer on Smith but he kicks out. Sanada follows up with the big moonsault for the pin. NEW CHAMPIONS AGAIN. This was fine, not a great match but Smith and Archer did deliver a tremendous beating. **3/4.

Minoru Suzuki vs. Hirooki Goto for the NEVER Openweight Title with both men's HAIR on the line as well. Early in the match Suzuki puts him in the sleeper, drags him to the corner, climbs to the middle rope and basically hangs him via sleeper. Goto sells it like he's dead. The doctors come in but Suzuki beats them up. Goto is lying there basically dead but the referee won't stop the fight. So finally Goto fires up and tries to make a comeback but Suzuki laughs and beats the hell out of him. Goto fights back but Suzuki cuts him off, puts him in a sleeper and tries the Gotch piledriver. Goto escapes. Suzuki tries again but eats the ushi-garoshi. SUZUKI-GUN TRIES TO RUN IN BUT THE YOUNG BOYS AND YOSHI-HASHI STOP THEM. Goto lays out Taichi but then runs right into the Suzuki dropkick. Suzuki strikes and slaps the holy hell out of him and puts the sleeper back on. Ref is about to stop it when Suzuki goes for the Gotch piledriver again. Goto, bleeding from the mouth, fights back. They fight up on the top rope and Suzuki headbutts him and puts on a guillotine. Goto fights free with a middle rope ushi-garoshi. They trade forearms. Goto with a headbutt of his own, hits a front GTR and a regular GTR for the pin. This was great. GOTO THE NEW NEVER OPENWEIGHT TITLE. Suzuki-Gun tries to drag him away without getting his head shaved. Suzuki suddenly realizes what's going on and returns to the ring on his own. He proceeds to knock the chair that was in the ring out of there, sits in his own chair, grabs the clippers from Goto and shaves his own head. Suzuki is awesome. ****3/4.

Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay vs. Hiromu Takahashi vs. Kushida for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title. Some awesome entrances here including Marty Scurll who came out with WINGS. Just a wild four-way. Kushida tried to kill himself again with a dive off the post where he smashed into the guardrail and almost landed on the back of his head. Ospreay climbed onto a lighting stand and did a moonsault off onto everyone. They barely caught him but he landed on his feet. Awesome spot in the middle where everyone hit a big move and we had a quadruple-down off four clotheslines. Everyone took turns hitting their finish. Ospreay tried the Oscutter but fell into the chicken wing. That was broken up. Scurll hit Ospreay with his own Oscutter for another nearfall. Scurll ties Hiromu to the barricade outside, then breaks the fingers for good measure. He goes after Kushida and Ospreay up top but Kushida breaks his fingers and then puts Ospreay in a flying cross armbreaker off the top, then a triangle. Ospreay tosses him into the corner to escape. Scurll gets powder and blinds Kushida. Kushida, blinded, hits back to the future but Ospreay breaks it up. Takahashi finally makes a comeback, hits the sunset flip powerbomb on Ospreay and Scurll to the floor, then hits the time bomb on Scurll for a nearfall. Scurll and Ospreay team up to take out the other two. Something goes wrong and everyone is briefly lost. Kushida with the sunset flip powebomb on Takahashi off the apron. Ospreay with the shooting star to the outside onto everyone. Throws Takahashi inside for the inverted 450 but Takahashi kicks out. Takahashi with the time bomb but Scurll pulls the ref outta the ring. Scurll hits everyone with the umbrella but Ospreay avoids it and hits the Oscutter for the win and the title. New IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion. Hell of a match. ****1/2.

Tanahashi vs. Jay White for the IWGP Intercontinental Title. White worked over his legs early. Tanahashi would make comebacks but then his legs would give out and he'd collapse. Tanahashi finally gives him a series of Dragon screws in the ropes. This crazy guy than does his huge high fly flow from the post to the floor. Jay White did a tremendous catch, though, a catch good enough that Tanahashi could have done that dive at 70 and he'd have been fine. White comes off the top but misses a dropkick and Tanahashi hits another dragon screw. Goes up for the high fly flow but gets cut off. Still manages to hit his twist and shout off the middle rope. Hits the sling blade, then a second one, then a high fly flow. Goes for a second one but misses. White tries blade running but Tanahashi hits the dragon suplex. Hits a high fly flow to the back and another to the front for the pin. Very good match, not great, but Tanahashi is a great wrestler and so this was very good. ***1/2.

Jericho vs. Omega. Don Callis was absolutely unbelievable in this match. They brawl before the bell, then it starts as a hockey fight. Jericho cuts him off with an eye poke behind the ref's back. Jericho with the walls, Omega gets the ropes, Jericho screams that it's no DQ. Omega escapes, goes for the big springboard dive, misses and smashes through an announce table. DON CALLIS TAKEN OUT IN THE MELEE. Jericho with the walls, then knocks down Red Shoes, slaps his son, and puts his son in the Lion Tamer. Omega has the opportunity to fight back. Puts a table on Jericho, double footstomp off a lighting rig. Red Shoes finally gets back in to do the count after they'd been outside five minutes, so that explains taking him out. Omega goes for a springboard and Jericho springboards and dropkicks his knee, sending him guts-first into the top rope. Jericho goes to powerbomb him through a table. Omega fights it so Jericho just powerbombs him on the floor. Omega fights back, sends him outside, hits his huge flip dive. Hits the V-trigger and goes for the snapdragon but Jericho puts him in the walls. Omega crawls to the corner and grabs the spray can and sprays Jericho in the eyes. Jericho claims he's blind, then bumps the ref and sends Omega head-first into a chair in the corner over-and-over again. Omega juices. Omega fights back with the V-trigger and snapdragon. Jericho waffles him with a chairshot. Chairshot after chairshot. Finally goes up top for one but Omega cuts him off, hits a V-Trigger and sends him off the top through the table. Omega takes him inside, V-trigger, underhook piledriver for a nearfall. Hits another V-trigger, goes for the one-winged angel but Jericho rolls through into the walls. Omega tries to get the ropes and Jericho turns it into the old-school Walls. He finally makes the ropes and Jericho collapses. Omega then hits the V-trigger and a second one-winged angel but Jericho grabs the ropes. They go back and forth. Jericho with the codebreaker but slow to cover and Omega kicks out. Puts a chair on Omega and goes for the lionsault, but Omega throws the chair at him, stops him in mid-move, then grabs him and hits the one-winged angel onto the chair for the pin. Looked like he killed Jericho. THIS MATCH WAS AWESOME. *****.

Kazuchika Okada vs. Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP Title. They actually botched a big criss-cross highspot early. So they took a brief pause and then did it again. They brawl outside for a little while as the announcers talk about the oddsmakers and the SIX-STAR MATCH OVER-UNDER. Big spot early is Naito snaps his neck on the barricade, then a neckbreaker on the apron. They talk about Okada's neck issues this year. Okada finally does a reversal and spikes him with a DDT. Makes a big comeback. Gives Naito a draping DDT off the rail. They work over each other's necks. Okada hits the top rope elbow and sets up for the rainmaker. Series of reversals and Okada gets the COBRA CLUTCH ON. LIJ fans are freaking out so they got that hold over. Naito gets the ropes after a great struggle. Naito with a draping neckbreaker and a reverse frankensteiner off the middle rope for a nearfall. Hits GLORIA but then misses the Stardust press. Place is going nuts. They have a hockey fight. Naito wins and hits the forearm. Okada with a huge German and hits the rainmaker but Naito kicks out. Okada tries the tombstone but Naito escapes. Okada goes for the camel clutch again but Naito hits the Destino but too slow to cover. They have a striking battle and the crowd is chanting along with every one. Okada losing steam and Naito hauls off and slaps him. Tries the Destino but Okada hits the rainmaker outta nowhere. He's still got the wrist. Goes for it again but Naito switches to the Destino. OKADA KICKS OUT. Quick highspot and Okada hits his dropkick outta nowhere. Okada with the tombstone. Goes for the rainmaker but Naito hit the Destino. Tries a second one but Okada spikes him and kills him with a rainmaker for the pin. FUCKING GREAT MATCH. Five stars. Don't know about six. Naito collapses on the way to the back. I have nightmares about Shibata seeing that. *****

New Japan New Year's Dash

Nagata & Nakanishi & Tenzan & Kojima vs. Oka & Narita & Umino & Yagi. Old guys vs. Young Lions. Oka gets a hot tag, great suplex on Nagata. Young Lions all hit the ring and run wild on Kojima, but ultimately he hits a giant lariat on Umino for the pin.

Taichi & Kanemaru & Iizuka & TAKA Michinoku & Desperado vs. Liger & Tiger Mask & Kawato & Henare & Togi Makabe. Suzuki-Gun brawls outside early, uses gimmicks including chairs, none of which is a DQ. They work over Henare for awhile. Iizuka bits him repeatedly. Hot tag by Makabe. Everyone hits the ring for a brief brawl. Kawato gets the tag and runs wild on Desperado. Hits an enzuiguri but Suzuki-Gun breaks it up. Melee, then Suzuki gangs up on Kawato and finally Desperado pins him with his angel's wings. Kawato helped to the back afterwards.

Jay White vs. Katsuya Kitamura. Kitamura is doing a 7 Match Trial Series. White offers to let Kitamura chop him, a really fucking stupid idea, but he's crafty and boots his knee as Kitamura rears back. White beats him up outside the ring and chops the hell outta him. Kitamura keeps going for the chop but White cuts him off every time. He finally fires up and hits it. Big suplex for a nearfall. White finally counters into a crossface, then a Nagata lock, then a crucifix with elbow strikes, and finally hits the blade runner for the clean pin.

Nick & Matt Jackson, & Kenny Omega vs. Sho, Yoh, & Cheeseburger. Tons of comedy spots. Nick sells his knee early and wants a tag but Matt and Kenny jumps off the apron since Matt's back is all jacked up and Kenny's ribs are all taped up. Matt and Yo then tag in but their backs are both jacked up so they can't do any spots without selling. So they tag out. Cheeseburgers works over all of the Elite with chops. He's super over. They triple superkick him and work him over. Bucks then accidentally kick Omega and Sho makes the hot tag. Breaks down into a six-way and Sho makes a great hot tag to Cheeseburger. He tries coming off the top but Elite catches him and hits the Indietaker for the pin. This was fun.

Ibushi & Juice Robinson & Finlay & KUSHIDA & Taguchi vs. Cody & Yujiro & Marty Scurll & Leo Tonga & Chase Owens. Brandi does commentary. Best part was she mentions Cody's hair and says LOOK AT HIM, HE LOOKS RICH. Kevin Kelly immediately says, HE IS RICH. Brandi then says, WELL YAH. LOL. Babyfaces hit a five-way dropkick early, but the try again and Yujiro puts the brakes on and everyone crashes and burns. They work over Taguchi's ass. He tags Kushida, who runs wild on everyone until Scurll hits the finger break. Bullet Club train onto Finlay, then Cody hits the disaster kick, but it's broken up. Brandi distracts Finlay allowing Cody to put on the Indian deathlock for the submission. Cody attacks Ibushi, then lays out Juice with the crossroads. Kenny Omega hits the ring to make the save and tosses the chair, then Omega and Cody get into a huge shoving match. Crowd popped huge for that. Omega then does a promo. Says he's sick of infighting and Bullet Club talking behind everyone's back. "We need unity." Says they need to be a team again, and number one. No more fighting. He has an idea, he knows exactly what they need. Calls out Switchblade Jay White. Offers him a spot in Bullet Club. They hug, but then Jay turns on him and hits the blade runner. Omega bumped right on his damn head. Good angle.

NEVER Six-Man Title Match: Trent Baretta & Yano & Ishii vs. Fale & Tama Tonga & Tonga Loa. Heat on Yano early, then Ishii gets the hot tag. Runs wild on everyone until he hits the brick wall Fale. They cut him off and work him over. Baretta gets the tag and triple team Tama. Breaks down into a six-way. Everyone hits a big move including Ishii hitting a rebound German suplex on Fale. Tonga and Loa isolate Baretta but he makes his own comeback. Tries the dudebuster but Tonga rolls through and hits the Gun Stun to win the titles back. Pretty good match.

Tanahashi & War Machine & Michael Elgin vs. Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr. & Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. Suzuki has shaved his head totally bald. Heat on Rowe for awhile. You really see how big Smith and Archer are when they are in there with War Machine, who seemed like absolute giants in Ring of Honor. He finally hits a big knee on Archer and tags in Elgin. Breaks down into the six-way and Suzuki goes after Tanahashi's knee. He's busy destroying it outside as the match continues in the ring. Rowe and Hanson his decapitation on Sabre. In the ring, Smith and Archer finally hit the killer bomb on Hanson for the pin. Pretty good match. Suzuki tosses Tanahashi into the ring afterwards and continues destroying Tanahashi's knee with a chair. Young Lions try to make the save but Suzuki-gun takes them all out. Tanahashi has to be helped to the back afterwards.

Will Ospreay & Goto & YOSHI HASHI & Okada & Gedo vs.Naito & EVIL & SANADA & BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi. Gedo is in there so heat on Gedo forever. Okada's neck is all taped up so Naito attacks it and then sends him into the guardrail. Gedo finally pokes Evil in the eyes, lays him out, and tags in Goto. He has a fun little series with EVIL. OKADA AND NAITO THEN GET THE HOT TAG. They go back and forth. Okada avoids Destino and puts on the cobra clutch. Naito escapes and we have a double-down. Chaos hits the ring and they all take out Naito. LIJ makes the save. Everyone hits a big move on everyone else, including all of LIJ hitting a seated dropkick on Okada at the same time. Comes down to Hashi and Naito and Naito hits the Destino for the pin. LIJ continues to destroy everyone afterwards. Hiromu lays out Ospreay, so that's probably a program. EVIL lays out Goto so that's a program. They all gang up on Okada, then Sanada hits a TKO and Skull End, so that's the next title program. Naito cuts a promo, the show seems over, but then suddenly Jericho is in the ring to attack Naito. Lays a beating in on him in the corner. All the young boys try to break it up. Jericho is piefacing and throwing Young Boys around. Naito then spits on Jericho and attacks him and it's a melee. Naito does tranquilo and Jericho doesn't give a shit about his pose and just leaps on him. Naito grabs a chair and threatens to throw it at him, but then stops, sets it up and sits down and chills out. That program sounds awesome.



Roman out for a promo. People are kinda booing, he looks around giving them a chance to get louder, but they never do. Says Joe was tough, but he wasn't that tough, he gave him a shot last week and he's still the IC Champion. Says he fought with a purpose, for his brother Dean Ambrose. Says if you mess with one member of the Shield you mess with all of them. Jason Jordan out. Far more boos than Roman. Says this is Roman's yard. Fans chant "WHO'S YOUR DADDY?" Thanks Roman and wants a fist bump. Seth Rollins out. Says Jason needs to work on his timing, he stepped on Roman's moment. Jordan says this is everyone's opponent. Says they're all champions and they run this show. Roman is disgusted. Jordan says hey, we're not the Shield, but we're pretty good. We're the most dominant three-man group in all of WWE. Cue Balor Club. Finn buries Jordan, saying he's been friends with Anderson and Gallows for a decade, way before Jordan even discovered Kurt was his dad. Gallows and Anderson say they've been running with Finn forever, but when he came to WWE they went their separate ways. They were off doing their own things, but eventually they knew the three of them would come together and take this place over. Finn says 2018 will be the year of Balor Club. Jordan says he's happy to be part of the CHAMPION'S CLUB. Roman and Seth hang their heads in shame. Gallows calls him a NERD so Jordan shoves him and they have a pull-apart. Cue Kurt Angle to come out and sign the match for later tonight.

Sasha & Bayley vs. Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville. Mickey James and Paige at ringside. They've totally glammed up Sonya Deville, her hair is all pretty, no more braids. It sucks because that was a unique look, but it's a positive because we'll no longer have to hear PUT YOUR HAIR UP AND SQUARE UP. Many worked most of the match. Heat on Bayley, then Sasha got a hot tag, then commercial, then they came back with heat on Sasha. They build to Bayley's hot tag but she never gets it. She eventually goes after Sonya outside, and meanwhile, Sasha, who was selling for five straight minutes, just slips behind Mandy and puts her in the Banks statement for the submission. Usual 50/50 stuff. Just a bunch of women doing matches.

Best of Raw clips. Mankind with Vince in the hospital. An all-time classic clip. They've added comedy music and sound effects which is completely unnecessary.

Cedric and Goldust meet backstage. Goldust is doing a Rocky 2 spoof. But he gets the movie wrong. Cedric says he doesn't need the luck. He's this close to making this crazy dream of becoming a champion in WWE a reality. Goldust says there is one thing standing in the way of his dream -- Cedric. Says he's in control of his dream, not anyone else.

Goldust finds out his Mixed Match Challenge partner is Alicia Fox. They plug various Mixed Match Challenge partners. Woken Matt Hardy vs. Curt Hawkins. Matt debuts his new entrance here in Memphis, TN, pretty much the worst possible place to do so, but whatever. The announcers pretended the place went nuts. Matt won in like 2 minutes with the twist of fate. This was fun enough. Lights out and Bray Wyatt appears in the ring. They proceed to laugh at each other for a minute. What I don't like about this is that it reeks of WWE branding. In TNA, Broken Matt did something new and crazy every week. In WWE, they have to brand him and simplify it, so his gimmick is he laughs for a minute. Week after week after week after week after week.

Elias in the ring for a concert. Says WWE stands for WALK WITH ELIAS! Actually gets the fans to chant it. He got more out of this Memphis crowd than anyone else so far. I guess it is Memphis, and he is playing the guitar. He's got a song for everyone. It is a song celebrating the return of Miz.

Miz returns. He's got a new haircut. Says he's the glue that holds this show together. Introduces his guests, the Miztourage. Axel says 2017 was the best year of his life, every day was MizMas. Bo says having Miz's wisdom in his life was like winning the Mizzies every day. They try to get a THANK YOU MIZ chant going. Bo gives him a framed photo of himself. Axel gives him the coat off his back. So Bo wants to give him his watch and then they fight to give him their clothes. Miz tells them to shut up. Says he has much more planned in 2018. He elevated careers, he was IC Champion for more than 200 days, he was Superstar of the Year in Rolling Stone. But he didn't forget about Roman Reigns beating him for the belt. Says in 2018 he'll witness the birth of his daughter, and also become the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time -- children will think of him like Ultimate Warrior, Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart did before. Vows to beat Roman for the title on the 25th anniversary show.

Finn with Gallows and Anderson. He wants to talk strategy but they're busy telling drinking stories. Finn says the situation may be different tonight but the tactics are the same.

Enzo vs. Cedric for the Cruiserweight Title. He notes he was sick last week and it was the luckiest day of Cedric's life, Happy New Year. Thanks Nia for the chicken soup. Cedric slaps him early and Enzo bails outside. Nia shown watching on backstage. Enzo tosses him off the top to the floor for the heat. Enzo works him over with various holds. Cedric makes his big comeback, handspring kick for a nearfall. Enzo badly busted open by the kick, he's bleeding everywhere from above the eye. Enzo rolls outside. Cedric with a flip dive, Enzo doesn't even try to catch him, Cedric lands right on his ankle. Enzo is screaming NO NO NO NO NO NO! Cedric rolls inside but Enzo just doesn't make the count. So Cedric wins the match but not the title. Enzo outside covered in blood and holding his ankle as the doctors all tend to him.

After commercial Enzo is being tended to. They tell him X-Rays and probably an MRI. Nia shows up. He says he's good, but he's not good.

Kurt is on the phone with someone who has not been in the ring in years, but would be perfect for the Women's Royal Rumble. The Bar shows up. They want their rematch, but Kurt is busy signing his son to matches to avoid having him get in the ring with the Bar. Kurt says they have the opportunity to reclaim their titles at the Royal Rumble PPV. They've overjoyed. But what about tonight?, asks Sheamus. Kurt tells them to head to the ring and he'll find them some competition. Miz walks up. He's plugging his new unscripted series with Maryse, which will not, in fact, be unscripted. They are the executive producers of this UNSCRIPTED show. Wants his rematch with Roman Reigns on the Raw 25th Anniversary show. Kurt says you got it.

They shove the goddamn Mixed Match Challenge down our throats. Clips of Miz discovering his partner is Asuka. "So we're partners, me and you. You're undefeated in WWE, you're undefeated in NXT, you're undefeated everywhere. I'M WINNING THE MIXED MATCH CHALLENGE!" It's like Miz listened to Observer Live.

Asuka in the back. Alexa walks up and says Asuka got lucky last week but her luck has run out, courtesy her friend Nia Jax. Hell of a follow-up to Asuka beating the champion in a non-title match. Another random match.

The Bar vs. Titus Worldwide. It's Titus and Apollo Crews. Three guesses what happened. GUESS WHAT, YOU'RE WRONG. They beat up Apollo forever, then Titus got a hot tag, Apollo did a moonsault off the apron onto Cesaro outside, and Titus cradled and pinned Sheamus. LOL.

Heyman and Brock out. Paul says Memphis should appreciate this. There is a credo called OLD SCHOOL. They respect that but they've never let it blind them to the fact that this is a progressive industry. But there is something old-school that has been forgotten, the idea of finding one man to step up and challenge the champion. Obviously that's not what's happening at the Royal Rumble. But they're not complaining, Kane gave him his best shot last week and Brock laughed in his face. Same thing will happen at the Rumble. Says Brock is the most dominant champion in WWE history and he's yet to find someone who can beat this beast. So they go to leave, but as they're backing up the ramp KANE flies in outta nowhere and attacks Brock. They have a wild brawl into the backstage area. Braun Strowman then flies in and destroys both of them. Braun then grabs a grappling hook, attaches it to a giant random freestanding metal structure backstage, and yanks it down, allegedly smashing everyone to death. Except it's WWE, they're not dead, Kane walks off on his own, and Brock is strapped to a gurney against the will to take him to the hospital.

Samoa Joe vs. Rhyno. Squash. They have Charly interview Joe this time. He says last week wasn't a loss, Roman's win was a PYRRHIC VICTORY. That, he explains, is when you win but suffer such a great loss that it impacts you forever. One day, he threatens, he will finish the job. Until then he shall pursue bigger things, such as his participation in the Royal Rumble. Charlie wants to know how he thinks he'll match up with everyone else, including John Cena. He says when it comes to his career, John Cena is a name that he will never forget, and in the Royal Rumble he will be the first man I eliminate. JOE IS THE BEST. Ten times the promo of Miz.

Preposterous meeting between Alexa and Nia. They're legit great friends but they have THE phoniest meeting I've ever witnessed. As in, this had to be the most horribly-acted promo segment in the entire history of professional wrestling. Everyone, please watch it. If you watched it, watch it again. Tell me I'm wrong. I can't even begin to recap it. The gist is, Alexa tried to turn Nia against Asuka. Said Asuka said something about Nia that Alexa couldn't believe. Nia demanded she tell her. Alexa whispers a short sentence in her ear. Nia is appalled. "Do you speak Japanese? Because Asuka doesn't speak English." EXCEPT THAT SHE FUCKING DOES, AND DID ON THIS VERY SHOW.

Asuka out for a match. Nia jumps her and kills her. I wish she'd jumped and killed me before I had to watch the previous segment.

We're told to vote for Bayley's partner in the Mixed Match Challenge. Joe, Drifter or Jason Jordan. They also announce Asuka vs. Nia next week.

Balor Club vs. Roman & Seth & Jason Jordan. Heat on Roman for a long time. An incredible number of chinlocks at the top of the third hour. Seth gets the hot tag. He had his shoulder worked over earlier so he clutches at it here and there but still does his entire usual comeback which involves all sorts of lifting and suplexes. Seth goes to tag Roman but Jordan distracted the ref and so the ref won't allow the tag. Gallows and Anderson hit the magic killer on Seth. Roman clears the ring and starts screaming at Jordan, then goes outside and takes out Anderson and Gallows. Jordan tries to help Seth up but Balor dropkicks him, sends him outside, and then hits the coup de gras on Seth for the pin. "The better team won," says Booker T, the most intelligent thing he has said on commentary in 2018, and possibly 2017 as well. So after the match the Miztourage hits the ring and stomps a mudhole in all three of them. They then mock Reigns and hit him with the Shield triple powerbomb.