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Figure Four Weekly 4/18/2017: Shibata vs. Okada underscores the dangers of pro wrestling

Shibata vs. Okada underscores dangers of pro wrestling

by Joseph Currier (@josephcurrier)

I wasn't thinking about the headbutt that may have ended Katsuyori Shibata's career when the main event of Sakura Genesis ended.

Instead, I was impulsively trying to fit Shibata vs. Kazuchika Okada into the hierarchy of matches I've seen over the past few years. I knew that it was my favorite match of the year so far, even surpassing Okada vs. Kenny Omega from the Tokyo Dome. It comfortably surpassed anything from 2016 for me as well, and I may have been able to go back further if it wasn't for the fear of recency bias affecting my judgment too much.

But Shibata vs. Okada was nearly perfect. And it needed to happen when it did to reach such transcendent levels. It was Shibata's first shot at the IWGP Heavyweight title since returning to New Japan Pro Wrestling in 2012. While it's probably fair to say that he was elevated too late, it happened right when Shibata had become capable of having the 38-minute epic that was his Sumo Hall headliner against Okada.

Shibata has added so much to his offensive repertoire over the last couple of years. He's transformed from someone capable of having great sprints into a complete performer. He showed that early while outwrestling Okada, and there wasn't a single segment that felt like it was stalling or wasting time.

It couldn't have reached the level that it did without Okada taking another step forward over the last year either. He's a made man that always wrestles like he has something to prove. His current title reign has been absurd, with him having so many great matches against so many different opponents.

So, it wasn't the headbutt that I was thinking about when the match was over. It was how Shibata had turned the corner to become a truly elite pro wrestler. It was how Okada was having one of the most incredible runs as champion that I've ever seen. And it was mostly just how much I loved what they did in the ring together.

Though I didn't catch it live, I was able to watch Shibata vs. Okada at a time when the injuries that Shibata suffered were thought to be a work to get over the physicality of the match and make him look strong in a loss. I was able to watch it when the grotesque sounding headbutt was just an amazing spot in an excellent bout instead of a moment that would mar something that I got so much enjoyment out of.

Now, it's really the only thing that I can think about when I reflect on it. NJPW announced that Shibata collapsed backstage and had to undergo surgery after being diagnosed with a subdural hematoma, likely the direct result of the headbutt. Dave Meltzer later reported that the injury appears to be legitimate, and that it's believed that Shibata will never be cleared to wrestle again.

It's hard not to blame the performers involved for taking such an unnecessary risk. The match would've been great without the headbutt spot. The stupidity of Shibata's headbutts has rightfully been pointed out and he's been criticized for them in the past. It unfortunately seemed inevitable that they, along with his style of wrestling, would either affect his in-ring career or his quality of life after it was over.

There's obviously no place for skull-on-skull headbutts in professional wrestling. That's especially true at a time when we know more about the consequences of head injuries than ever, though there's still plenty to learn about the science behind them.

But just categorizing this as a headbutt problem is too simple. Pro wrestling is inherently dangerous, and the dangers of it are perpetually increasing. The industry is more reliant on athleticism and risk-taking than it's ever been, with so many wrestlers capable of doing unwise things that stretch the limits of human possibility.

There will always be freak accidents as well. Tomoaki Honma's career may have been ended on a draping DDT just last month, with it being unclear how the punishment he's taken over his years in the ring contributed to that.

Saying that we're culpable as fans for the dangers of pro wrestling probably goes too far despite the reaction that risky spots get. Everyone knows that there are risks involved, though foresight isn't something that we're always capable of. Shibata knew the dangers of his style, but continued to wrestle like he did because he felt like he had to. The need for artistic expression helped fuel a performer that everyone in pro wrestling can learn from both positively and negatively.

Okada will likely continue to take unnecessary risks even after this. He'll continue wrestling like he has to prove himself in every match, always trying to further cement himself as the man capable of carrying NJPW despite already having that position locked up. But hopefully he'll learn from Shibata's injuries and realize there's a limit to what he needs to do in the ring.

The senseless headbutt is unfortunately (but rightfully) the first thing that will be remembered from a match that was the best of pro wrestling otherwise. Like everyone else, I'll need to grapple with rewarding the risks that were taken when choosing my Match of the Year for 2017. But the quality of the match ultimately doesn't matter at all. All that matters is if Shibata is able to make a full recovery and live a productive life in whatever he chooses to do.

Mexico Notes

by Dr. Lucha Steve Sims (@DrLuchaJr)

No obits this week, thank goodness. Regular stuff.

For the second time in its 25-year history, the mall family-owned company that promotes AAA has lost its CEO. From April 1992 to October 2006, Antonio Pena steered the ship. When he died, many fans and commentators thought AAA would not survive, but it did. His son-in-law, Joaquin Roldan, presided over the company from October 2006 to April 2017. This time, when Roldan died, a number of fans and commentators seem to feel that AAA will be fine. I am not so sure; I tend towards the opposite.

Joaquin was the businessman in the office. Known as a fairly conservative lawyer, trying to run a company to protect his wife's brothers vision, he rarely gambled. Sadly, the two times he did in the past five years, things did not turn out so well.

Joaquin decided, on the advice of many (if not all, and I was in agreement with the decision) to offer contracts to ex-WWE personnel Alberto Del Rio, Sin Cara, and Rey Misterio Jr. when each became available for use in Mexico as free agents. The financial terms of the paperwork offered were steep; they were first-world contracts in a mostly third-world country. For whatever reasons, the office was not able to keep up with each and every periodic payment, something that has been publicly acknowledged by two of the three wrestlers. None remains with the company any longer, and the net financial result was a loss, believed to be a serious one, for the office.

Also, the Roldans as a whole decided, in what again was a very popular decision, to invest a more sizable money in the development of the project that became Lucha:Underground. As with the signing of the ex-WWE talent, I myself would have probably made the same decision. Artistically, they contributed to as outstanding a project as lucha libre has seen this decade. Financially, however, as has been reported widely, the project and partners have lost money from the start, and not an insignificant amount (it is not impossible that future revenue streams from rebroadcast and/or expanded distribution could turn this around into a net profit, but that is not a thing that can be guaranteed at this point in time).

So, these days, AAA is operating on thinner ice than it has in its history, in that it has no Antonio Pena to think things up that will spur a rebound, nor in-house legal and CEO expertise of Joaquin Roldan) while it is trying to get under form an 800-pound financial gorilla on its back.

Only Pena's grandchildren, Dorian and Stephanie, and his sister, Marisela, which means unless they hire an executive from the outside with management expertise, Dorian will be the 2017 version of Antonio Pena and Joaquin Roldan rolled into one by himself. I'm not sure there is anyone in Mexico who could do that (yes, the CMLL front office could absorb this, but they have not expressed interest in any sort of takeover or merger – as usual with CMLL, they are pleased as punch just to do the exact same thing they have been doing the last 20 years).

At one point in recent year, the Roldans were negotiating with Televisa to sell them basically all of AAA and their rights and interest to Lucha:Underground. At that time, AAA's financial books were healthier, and Televisa passed. How would a giant company like that feel now when the financial books look worse?

2017 has been an odd year for AAA so far. Even with Joaquin around, AAA had been losing talent, mostly the sort of young better-working marketable talent that have populated cards during the current indie boom. However, their attendances have been strong this year, maybe the strongest first four months attendance-wise for the company this decade (I am learning never to underestimate the fact that they appear on Televisa each week).

But the company will make whatever money it makes this year – the way its business model is structured - from the gate and ancillary revenue at its remain four big shows – Verano de Escandalo, Triplemania, Heroes Inmortales, and Guerra de Titanes, which may run in December or not until January 2018). Especially Triplemania. Where tickets are already on sales for a promised, guaranteed, 1-on-1 mask match between Psycho Clown and Dr. Wagner Jr., the one and only promise this promotion has made to its fans. My guesses have been wrong in the past, but in this case, I would guess that if that match does not come off straight as advertised, the company won't survive 2017 in the same form they are now, if at all.

Europe Notes

by Oliver Court (@AnotherOli)

Easter weekend became an impromptu WrestleMania Weekend-style lineup of shows this year, with RevPro's 'Epic Encounter', Fight Club Pro's three 'Dream Tag Team Invitational' shows, OTT's 'ScrapperMania III' and Lucha Forever's debut show on Monday all contributing to a significant weekend in BritWres. I was able to attend Epic Encounter and the Wolverhampton DTTI show and enjoyed both shows, despite problems with timings, with both shows starting late and doing nothing to accommodate their late starts. RevPro's show length was pretty much as expected, but the late start led to half the crowd running out of the building as soon as the last match ended, if they had even been able to stay around until then. FCP was even worse, with the show starting an hour later than advertised and the ultra-long queue standing in the pouring rain while waiting to be let in, while the finish time was very close to midnight. The quality of both shows made up for these issues for me, but both companies will need to look into their door opening times and time management during the show so that no-one who paid a ticket is forced to leave before the show ends.

For both shows I saw, plus ScrapperMania, the big draw was Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks taking on dream teams in 6-man matches, and they all delivered authentic Elite shenanigans and PWG-esque madness. They are the biggest stars in all of wrestling outside WWE right now, with every crowd they wrestled in front of this weekend going ballistic for them, and the numerical proof comes from all these shows selling out soon after they were announced. It was a pleasure to see them live for the first time, but they weren't the only wrestlers to stand out on the shows I saw live. It was my first time seeing Lio Rush too and he impressed me with his quickness and burgeoning star aura. Penta El 0M is also incredible to witness live and more than matched his hype along with Fenix. As for British stars, all three men under the CCK banner (Brookes, Lykos and Banks) raised their profiles with their performances throughout the weekend.

With all the contract politics surrounding BritWres recently, it was a pleasure to have a weekend like this where almost no contractual issues affected the awesome lineups these promotions were able to put on. Fight Club Pro in particular may not be able to have many more shows like the three they just had due to the WWE contract situation, but Wolves was a special show from both lineup and match quality perspectives and I can't wait to see the Manchester and London shows too.

Japan Notes

by Alan Counihan (@Alan4L)

In what is a great sign for the company, All Japan sold out Korakuen Hall for the opening night of the 38th Champion Carnival this past weekend. It's their first sellout of that building in several years and whilst they are still a long way away from past glories it's a sign that the steadying of the ship in the past year as worked. A big part of that is the consistency of having Kento Miyahara as the dominant Triple Crown champion. 14 months into his reign and he is unquestionably the marquee name in this years field.

Heading the A Block, the champion is joined by 2016 winner and Big Japan's ace Daisuke Sekimoto, current tag champion Zeus,Joe Doering following his miraculous return from brain cancer, Jake Lee,Ryoji Sai and KAI. That is a very open block with really everyone except Lee and Sai a candidate for making it to the final. Doering would make for a great story, Sekimoto gives you the guaranteed great match, Miyahara makes the championship look strong, Zeus is considered the best pick for Miyahara's successor by many and KAI is a bit of a wildcard.

Block B features two former winners in Suwama (2008) and Takao Omori (2014). They are joined by youngster Naoya Nomura, K-Dojo ace Kengo Mashimo, Shuji Ishikawa (a darkhorse wrestler of the year candidate for 2016), The Bodyguard, and Big Japan's Daichi Hashimoto. This seems like Suwama's block for the taking. He's been hidden away in tag matches since his Triple Crown loss to Miyahara at Sumo Hall last year so a big run in the Carnival feels like it would be coming at the right time. Ishikawa makes his Champion Carnival debut and is someone that fans are very excited to see amongst the field.

The tournament runs through to April 30th where it will culminate at Hakata Star Lanes in Fukuoka. Every show will be taped either for Samurai TV or GAORA television, or NicoNico online streaming. Opening night will air on GAORA on the 24th but several of the shows in this coming week will have aired prior to that. With the names that are in the field, this could be one of the sleeper events of the year in Pro Wrestling. It's definitely one that would be worth cherry picking as there are bound to be some sensational matches.

TV Reviews

by Bryan's Friend Vince (@FO_VVerhei)

Retro NWA (4/18/87)

They showed Magnum TA coming out to the ring at the Crockett Cup. His arm was in a sling, he was using a cane, and Teddy Long had to help him, but hell, he was up on his feet and still breathing air. He looked genuinely moved by the fans' reaction. Then Dusty and Nikita (still in a neckbrace) came out, and took turns giving him giant hugs. They went to the studio and David Crockett called it the greatest moment of his life. They announced that the SuperPowers had won the tournament, the cup, and the $1 million. Now they were doing ANOTHER tag tournament to crown US tag team champions, starting next week.

Midnight Express vs. Alan Martin & David Diamond. Ten seconds in Alan Martin took THE funniest bump through the ropes to the floor. Jim Cornette bragged about eliminating the Garvins and the Road Warriors from the tournament, but then facing the SuperPowers and getting screwed by a crooked ref from Austin, Texas. Express beat the geeks up for a while and won with a rocket launcher. Cornette then cut a promo saying he had been offered big money for the services of Big Bubba, and it was too much money to turn down. He knew what would happen if he got into a cage with Ronnie Garvin, but somebody was paying up Garvin's lawyers, and stopping Cornette's lawyers from getting the match thrown out. So he was going to have the Midnights take out Garvin personally.

Ivan Koloff & Vladimir Petrov vs. Mike Force & Russ Tyler. Tyler was very clearly a Jerry Lawler mark. He had the hair, the beat, the single-strap singlet. Not the talent though. This went way past the two minutes it needed. Russians won with a back suplex/forearm combo.

Tim Horner and Ole Anderson came out for a promo. Horner tried and failed to sound initimidating running down the Horsemen. Then as Ole started, Tim shook his head like he knew he sucked. Ole ran down the Horsemen one by one. He said he had taught all of them all he knew, and now he was teaching Horner. He was all friendly, talking about the young lion and the old horse, and how they were pretty darn tough.

Russians cut a promo. Ivan hyped up some Russian chain matches around the country, and vowed to win the tournament and get the US tag titles back.

Brad Armstrong vs. Randy Barber. I looked away, because Brad Armstrong, and when I looked up Barber was taking THE WORST drop toehold ever. How do you not know how to go down for a drop toehold? You just GO DOWN. It's just GRAVITY. Then there were armbars. Also, fat rolls. There was a long, long, armbar, then a leapfrog, then a long, long armbar. At last Armstrong won with the legsweep. Brad and Bullet Bob then cut a promo about the US tag titles. Bob said they had made a mistake in the Crockett Cup, but they would correct that mistake and win the US tag titles. He said Brad was ready for Ric Flair and the world title. Brad said they had made it to the semifinals of the "Baltimore Cup." That can't be true. Well, it is, they beat Arn Anderson & Kevin Sullivan and the Russians before losing to Lex Luger & Tully Blanchard.

Ronnie Garvin vs. Tiny Beason. Tiny wasn't Tiny. He was a big flabby white guy with a short black afro and a moustache. David Crockett was losing his MIND calling this beating. "GO RONNIE! GO! PUT HIM IN THE SUGAR! SQUEEZE! HA HA!" No wrestler has ever had a bigger fan than Ronnie Garvin had in David Crockett. Ronnie pulled Tiny's one strap down so he could hit some slaps and back rakes. Garvin used some holds for a while, then slapped Mr. Beason right in the face a few times, then rode him like a horse and patted him on the ass. Next, he rolled Beason over, teabagged him, and jiggled his belly for the fans. Tiny took a backdrop without leaving his feet, and Ronnie finished him off with the knockout punch. I have never seen anything like this one. (*****).

Road Warriors vs. Dexter Wescott & Rick Sullivan. I don't know what got into Crockett, but he was on FIRE this week. Roadies killed these geeks and killed one with the doomsday device for the win. Then they cut a promo. They hyped up "the biggest match of all time," the Warriors and the SuperPowers (the two winners of the Crockett Cup, as Animal pointed out) against the Four Horsemen.

Lex Luger vs. Larry Clarke. Boring. Lex won with the torture rack. JJ Dillon then cut a promo putting over the Crockett Cup as a tremendous event. And sure, the SuperPowers won, but now that Cup would sit in the corner for a year collecting dust, and it was time to move on. Nikita Koloff, he said, was getting soft, and a million dollar payoff would make him more soft, and Lex was going to take advantage. Lex, managed to not be blown up after his two-minute squash. He said money, cars, houses, everything he wanted, he got, and now he wanted the US title.

New Breed vs. Chance McQuade & Larry Stevens. New Breed's new jack swing music on the Network never fails to make me laugh. Chris Chamipon had a hell of a dropkick. Match went through a break. Crockett said they were a mix of the Road Warriors, the Rock & Roll Express, and the Midnight Express. Then they won with a RockerPlex, so I guess they're like the Rockers too. Sean Royal then cut a promo making fun of Hawk, but his impression wasn't getting over. So he stopped doing it, and you could tell he was totally off his game and he flatly mumbled about the Rock & Roll Express, Jimmy Valiant, and Lazer-Tron. Royal, thankfully, stepped up, explaining that they had come from the year 2002 to SAVE WRESTLING. He promised to teach them all about the rock & roll of 2002. Per Billboard, that would be Nickelback, Linkin Park, Puddle of Mudd, and Creed. Wait, Nickelback has been a thing for FIFTEEN YEARS? Well now I feel old.

Ole Anderson & Tim Horner vs. Bill Tabb & Vernon Deaton. A squash. Horner, to get over the teacher-student thing, won with the diving knee to the shoulder and the armbar.

Nikita Koloff cut a promo, no longer wearing the neckbrace. He talked about how great it was to win the Crockett Cup, said he would wrestle a Russian chain match anywhere in the country, warned Dick Murdoch to stay out of wrestling, and said he was US champion, which meant the burden was on Lex to beat him, not the other way around.

Ric Flair came out for a promo. He claimed that Jimmy Garvin had Precious in hiding, so she was no longer available to Flair. Therefore, Jimmy had to be eliminated. He ran down the Road Warriors, saying Daytona Beach was perfect for the Four Horsemen. He walked out from behind the podium to show off his robe, which he said cost about $10,500, and this was what being world champion was all about.

Arn Anderson vs. Italian Stallion. Stallion was much better than most of these geeks, so Arn sold for him for a while before winning with the gourdbuster. He cut a promo calling out Barry Windham, saying Windham had beat 'em up up north, out west, and down south, but he came to Jim Crockett Promotions to face the best, the Four Horsemen. Now people were saying Barry was the top contender to the world title, which meant they thought Barry was better than him. He talked about how intensely he trained, and how if Barry thought he was better, he would have to prove it.

Ric Flair vs. Brodie Chase. Ric Flair, being Ric Flair, I expected him to go toe-to-toe with Brodie Chase and get a *** 20-minute match out of the guy. Instead he did what the world champion should do here: chop a guy bloody, make him look like a fool, and win with his finish in three minutes.

Crockett Cup highlight video. This was, no joke, one of the worst highlight videos I've ever seen. Any 10-year-old with an iPad could do a much better job today, and that says nothing about three decades of technological development.

Lazor-Tron vs. Darrel Dalton. Dalton was hideous, with even worse gear than Lazor. Lazor won with the flying cross chop and an Americana for the pin. Jimmy Valiant then cut a promo on behalf of Lazor-Tron, whom he said was a good person who loved people and loved little chilluns. He rambled for a while about new music and old music and said the New Breed would not last five seconds. Then he kissed a screaming Tony Schiavonie.

Jimmy Garvin vs. Billy Moore. Jimmy grabbed him and hit a brainbuster and won. Well OK then. Then Jimmy cut a promo about how he was disappointed Flair had no more gifts for him this week. He vowed not to disappear and said he wasn't going anywhere, and he wasn't afraid of Flair or the Horsemen, because he had guys on his side too. He said all the women in the world should slap Ric Flair, because he was not a butcher, and the world was not his meat market. This was fun.

Dillon and Tully Blanchard came out for a promo. With the Crockett Cup in the past, it was time to talk about his TV title and defending it. As champion, Tully claimed he made the rules for TV title matches, and no matter the rules Tully always came out on top. He ran down Barry Windham and the Road Warriors, and promised the Florida women would love them.

The Barbarian vs. Clement Fields. Barbarian used a very scary tombstone and won with the diving headbutt.

Jim Cornette explained that a wealthy Arab had purchased Big Bubba's services, and the Midnights had promised him Ronnie Garvin would never get his hands on Cornette. He began to cry as Stan cut a promo vowing Garvin would die if he tried to get his hands on Cornette. And that was that. An up and down show this week.

WWE Retro Raw 255 (4/13/98)

Steve Austin came out for a promo, demanding that Vince McMahon come talk to him. He threatened to hold up the show until Vince came out, and promised he wouldn't pick a fight, he just wanted to talk. Vince sheepishly poked his head out from behind the curtain, backed up by the equally sheepish Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco. Two guys in full SWAT gear came out and escorted them into the ring. First thing Austin demanded was to know the name of his challenger at the next PPV. Vince claimed he hadn't made up his mind yet, but Austin would know soon. Austin wasn't thrilled with this, but moved on to how Vince hated everything about him -- his beers, his language, his gestures, his fashion. He said Vince didn't just want a champion like himself, he wanted to be the champion. He asked Vince if that was true and Vince asked where he was going with it. Austin said before you gave me this shiny new championship belt to me, you probably wrapped it around your own waist and paraded around the house. Austin then declared he would defend the title tonight, against Vince. Vince was baffled and wanted to know the difference between the easy way and the hard way. Austin said the easy way was to accept this challenge and get his ass kicked in the ring. The hard way was Austin would go into Vince's office and kick his ass back there. He granted Vince 30 minutes "no more, no less" to make up his mind. So if Vince is ready to fight, Austin's still going to make him wait a half-hour. He also said Vince couldn't leave, because Austin had already beat up the limo driver and left him with four flat tires.

After the break, Vince was conferring with Patterson and Brisco. They said Austin was making a fool of Vince, and Vince needed to put a stop to things once and for all tonight.

DX came out for a promo. Wait, no, there's a tag team chain match going on and DX are just out there. So it was DOA vs. Los Boricuas, with each of the four guys chained to a ringpost, but the chains were so long everyone could go everywhere anyway. DX jumped Chains at ringside and attacked him with chairs, finishing him with a pedigree onto a chair, then a piledriver on a chair on the ramp. Why would that hurt more than a piledriver on the ramp? Then DX attacked the Harris Twins and we had a no-contest finish in a chain match. Good god almighty what a horrendous segment. They invited Los Boricuas to join them in a crotch chop, then Chyna nutshotted both of them and DX beat them up too. I mentioned this segment was horrendous, right?.

Shane had now joined the discussion with Vince, saying Vince could get hurt. Vince was offended that Shane didn't think he could take Austin.

A tag match was about to start but Vince came down to the ring to interrupt. He talked about the heritage of the company passing from his grandfather and hopefully to his children and their children. He said the WWF had always been about honor and integrity. BWAHAHAHAHA!!! Of course, this was just a few months after Montreal. He talked about what a hard decision this was, and how it would not be popular with those who had preceded him, and he looked to the heavens. But a man had to do what a man had to do, so would he fight Austin tonight? Oh hell yeah. Jim Ross thought this would be a travesty that would tear the company apart. "Has everybody lost their mind for god's sakes?" Both Ross and Michael Cole thought Vince had no chance and was going to get hurt. Ross said he was going to try to make sure it did not happen, and left. The tag teams got back in the ring, when the lights went out. Everyone figured Kane was coming out to kill people, but it was the Undertaker instead. Taker made what had to be his fastest entrance ever, including the motorcycle years, and killed the small men in the ring who were trying to have a tag match. It would have been Brian Christopher & Scott Taylor (Too Cool!) vs. two luchadors. Pantera and somebody? Anyway, Taker killed them all, then said it was time for big brother to show Kane what evil was all about. He knew Kane was in the building and demanded he come out. They went to commercial.

Kevin Kelly was backstage saying nobody could talk Vince out of wrestling Austin. They showed Ross and Shane trying to plead their case, but Vince put a stop to that and ordered Shane to go to the car and get his bag. "This is the dumbest decision you've ever made in your life," Shane protested, but he left to get the bag.

Jeff Jarrett vs. Taka Michinoku. They had flyers advertising Jarrett's concert at the PPV falling even after the match had started. As Jarrett was squashing Taka, Steve Blackman did an inset promo saying he would get revenge against Jarrett, maybe even during his concert. These poor guys had to do a match in a ring filled with flyers, which meant they had about no footing and were slipping all over the place. Taka knocked Jarrett out of the ring, but then got laid out by Men's Teioh, Dick Togo, and Funaki, who were being called Club Kamikaze. This was a DQ. Jarrett put Taka in the figure-four afterwards because why not. This show fucking sucks.

Austin did a promo from the locker room saying he was not surprised Vince had accepted his challenge, but one way or another things would get settled tonight.

Patterson and Brisco were working on strategy with Vince, starting wtih how to counter the boot that sets up the stunner.

Faarooq came out for a promo with no shirt and taped ribs. He said it would take more than a cracked ribs to kick his ass. He had given everyone in the Nation a chance to be a star, and tonight he was giving them a chance to finish the job, and called them all out. Rock came out and talked about what he was cooking, and laying the smack down, and the millions and millions of fans watching on TV. Yes, it was the very first edition of every Rock promo ever. Faarooq raised his fist and the Nation laughed at him, but then Ken Shamrock and Blackman appeared and raised their fists back. They charged the Nation, who attempted to flee down the ramp. OK, that was funny. It turned into a 4-on-3 brawl where somehow the babyfaces held their own until things were separated.

Terry Funk came out for a promo. He announced that he had a new tag team partner, because Cactus Jack had waddled out of the ring last week and declared that he was quitting because the fans had been chanting someone else's name. Funk, though, was not quitting, he was not a quitter, he didn't give a damn what the fans chanted. He announced his partner was hardcore and had never had a chance, because McMahon had never given him a chance. So bring out the Funk, and out came Flash Funk. They were in Philadelphia, so the crowd knew him as Too Cold Scorpio.

Quebecers vs. Terry Funk & Too Cold Scorpio. ECW chants, of course. These dudes went all out, including Pierre hitting Scorpio with a top rope belly-to-belly. Scorp dodged a cannonball and hit a 450 splash, and then, 45 minutes and 41 seconds into the show (not counting commercials), we had our first pinfall or submission finish. Match was fun for two minutes.

Luna came out dressed like Captain Stubing to cut a promo on Sable. She talked about PMS and said it was time for them to settle things right now. They went to break.

Goldust came out claiming to be Sable to accept Luna's challenge. Luna stripped his dress off as he squealed and told her to stop it. Sable ran out and attacked Luna until Goldust pulled Luna away.

Steve Blackman & Ken Shamrock vs. New Midnight Express. Dan Severn was out there to be in the Express' corner and had a staredown with Shamrock. Say what you will about Bob Holly and Bart Gunn, but aside from one botched hurricanrana this looked like the Midnight Express and the Fantastics compared the rest of the shit on this show. And then there was a hot tag and a four-way like in every other tag match since the days of the Fabulous Kangaroos and the ref called for the bell and disqualified both teams. Oh my god. OH MY GOD. The last time I got this angry watching wrestling I had to go for a walk to calm myself down and I can't do that right now because there's a terrible hailstorm going on out there. I did have to stop the show for a few minutes and catch my breath and calm down.

Motherfucker there's still like 45 minutes to go.

Vince did a promo from the locker room. He admitted he had butterflies in his stomach, but he wasn't afraid of the US government, he wasn't afraid of Ted Turner and Time-Warner, and he wasn't afraid of Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Headbangers were out for a tag match, I guess, but Undertaker came back out instead. They went after him but he killed them both. Then the lights went out again and Kane and Paul Bearer came out on stage. Bearer declared that next week Taker would face Kane, not in the ring, but in the cemetery, where they could fight on their parents' graves.

Val Venis vignette. He was apparently doing casting calls for new porn starlets on the set of his shoot. One of the women's robes fell open and they had to pixelate her boob. He made a bunch of "Lust in Space" jokes. What was up with the way he over-enunciated every word he said? WOE-ROLD RESS-A-LING FED-ER-AY-SHUN.

DX came back out for Christ knows what. Then Owen Hart came out to address them. Let me say this again: DX came out just so Owen could call them out. Owen had challenged one of them to a fight and demanded to know who had accepted. Hunter said they had had an essay contest to see who should fight Owen. He had jokes about everyone, then said Billy Gunn won becuase his essay came in a plastic binder and had included illustrations of Owen with barnyard animals.

Owen Hart vs. Billy Gunn. LOD 2000 came out to be in Owen's corner. Match started during the break. Hunter and X-Pac were doing commentary about how silly the Road Warriors looked in their new gear. Hunter also had a line about Sunny doing what she did best while holding their helmets. We had a second commercial during this one match. There was one faceoff between DX and the Warriors but otherwise it was just a wrestling match. Billy was celebrating after a powerslam when Owen caught him with a schoolboy for the win. DX claimed Billy had gotten a shoulder up and honestly he might have, but I'm just happy we got a clean finish.

Vince McMahon vs. Steve Austin. Vince and his cronies came out, then Shane begged them one last time not to do this. They ignored him. Austin came out and was staring down Vince, Patterson, Slaughter, and Brisco, when Vince slapped him in the face. Vince then cut a promo saying Austin had claimed he could beat Vince with one arm tied behind his back. So it was time to see if Austin was a man of his word, and pulled out a rope. Vince made it clear he wanted the right arm, the STUNNER arm, tied behind Austin's back. They spent a few minutes tying Austin's arm back and making sure it was tied tightly. Crowd said Vince was gay. Austin and Vince took turns firing up the crowd. Austin was still smiling and couldn't wait to fight. They spent a few minutes warming Vince up, giving him a thorough prematch rubdown. Brisco had a mouthpiece for him. Then, at long, long, long last, Dude Love's music hit, and out came Dude, asking if we could all just get along. He said he and Steve were tight, but Uncle Vinny writes the checks that allow Dude to live the life he likes to live. He warned Vince that Austin would kick his ass, and Vince shoved Dude down. Dude switched to Cactus Jack's voice and said Vince had just made the world's biggest mistake, and went after Vince. Austin tried to break it up, but Dude turned on him and put him out with the mandible claw. Vince and his crew, bewildered, left. Dude went back into Dude mode and said that when he put a cat down, that cat stayed down, and he went after Austin again. Now Vince was calling out Dude, accusing him of stealing the spotlight. Dude called him out and the stooges had to hold Vince back. Show ended with Dude putting Austin back in the claw on top of the announce desk.

We then got seven minutes of "After Raw" bonus footage. They tried to untie Austin as Dude celebrated, danced, and demanded they play his music. He danced backstage, but Austin finally got free. He went after Dude, but DX ran out and attacked him. Kane came out. DX ran away. LOD 2000 went after Kane. Taker went after Kane. Austin finally made a real comeback and stunned Road Dogg and pinned him. So LOD 2000 & Undertaker & Austin beat New Age Outlaws & Triple H & Kane, I guess. Everyone left and Austin celebrated, then vowed to beat somebody up next week. Second half was much better than first, but I did not enjoy this show. I endured it.

WCW Monday Nitro 135 (4/13/98)

Fit Finley vs. Scott Steiner. Steiner sure was in a bad mood this week. He was manhandling Finley in the ring and just giving him the business, then left the ring to get in the face of Larry Hennig -- whose son Curt was theoretically Scott's teammate in the nWo. Then Steiner got back in the ring and elbowed Finley right in the face. Finley, of course, was not shy about laying strikes in when it was his turn. Steiner cut him off and hit a middle-rope exploder and the Steiner recliner for the win. Fun mean guy match.

Bret Hart did a sitdown promo about how he was tired of crying about getting screwed by a promoter. But from now on he would not let anyone else get screwed over by promoters.

Lenny Lane vs. Ultimo Dragon. Announcers were talking about the Calgary Hitmen and how they were losing to the Brandon Wheat Kings in the playoffs. Lenny got a shocking amount of offense here. Announcers were saying he had done a lot of appearances for local indies, so I guess they threw him a bone. Crowd did love booing him. Lenny took 90 percent of this match and then Dragon hooked the Dragon sleeper. Lenny accidentally slipped out, so Dragon kicked him in the back and put the sleeper back on for the win. What a weird match.

More Bret talking. All he wanted was a fair shot at the world title, whether he won or lost.

Announcers were on camera flapping their gums for like five minutes. Finally they threw it to the back, where Mean Gean was interviewing Roddy Piper. He repeated his claim that Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan were gay lovers. So he was booking Hogan vs. Nash tonight, then he was going to fight Hogan himself. Wait, did he just say he was going to pick a fight with the tired, weakened Hogan? Hogan and Disciple jumped him and Disciple hit a stunner in the hallway without breaking his hip, which was an achievement.

Mean Gene brought Giant to the ring for a promo. Giant promised that Piper would be ready for Spring Stampede, then ran down Hogan, Nash, and the rest of the nWo. He talked about being big enough and athletic enough to jump up and grab the bat without climbing anything. He cut a really good promo vowing to wipe out Hogan and especially Nash. Remember, this guy had been a pro wrestler for like three years at this point. He was really good.

Johnny Grunge vs. Chavo Guerrero Jr. I had very low expectations for this when Grunge came out, but it's not like Chavo doesn't know what he's doing, and if I'm being honest Grunge held his own here. Chavo tried a top rope sunset flip, but Grunge sat down on him for the pinfall win, in what had to be the biggest singles win of his career.

Bret Hart's latest backstage bit, in its entirety. "Nash is scum and Hogan's worse. Nothing could make me happier than to see those two snakes kill each other off." Did this need to be split up into like 18 promos?.

Kevin Nash came out for a promo. He said Hogan had fled the building in fear, and Piper was already laid out. He wanted to know where Macho Man was. Um, the hospital? Or some clinic somewhere? He said he might be world champion right now if not for Hogan's interference last week. Sting came running out, and I do mean running out, to face him. JJ Dillon hit the ring to stand between them. Sting said he wanted to give Nash a title match tonight, and Nash could use the bat if he wanted. Dillon said WCW made the matches, and they would have to wait till the main event. Sting said he wanted the powerbomb reinstated too. Nash insisted Dillon agree with that, and Dillon did. This made, well, everyone happy except Dillon. Nash kept taunting Sting, so Sting hit the ring and crotch-chopped him repeatedly, then left in a huff. There was more fire from Sting here than we've seen in months.

Glacier vs. Chris Benoit. Announcers talked about how Glacier had failed to live up to the hype of his big debut. Larry said it had exposed the inferiority of karate compared to pro wrestling. They had a good match here as Glacier was doing his best to match Benoit's intensity, but Benoit caught him in the crossface for the submission win.

They showed Buff Bagwell on Thunder calling out Lex Luger, pointing out he was 5-1 against the Total Package, then turning his back to the camera and flaring his lats to show off the self-portrait on his jacket. This caused Tony to give a mighty eye roll. GOD Bagwell was great. Then they showed Luger and Scott Steiner getting into a brawl from the same show. As that was going on, Rick Steiner came out and hit Eric Bischoff with a suplex on the floor. This was weird.

Buff Bagwell came out for a promo. A fan held up a sign reading "ROIDS SHRINK NUTS." I missed Bagwell's appearance on Gigolos so I can't say how that applies to him. First thing Buff did was make fun of Luger for flexing too much. Buff was so awesome. He promised that Rick Steiner had a beating coming, but tonight he was going to beat Luger. Bischoff said Hogan would be there to take care of Rick, but he had to leave to do "the Leno show.".

Lex Luger vs. Buff Bagwell. Buff did the exact same match every night, but it was a good match to do. He ran wild early and did all his own wacky posing and flexing. Then Lex knocked him out of the ring and mocked his silly poses. I remember laughing my ass off at this exact spot in this exact match 19 years ago, and 19 years later it was still funny as all hell even though I knew exactly where it was going. Lex dodged the blockbuster and made his comeback. He called for the rack and had the whole place going nuts, then put it on, but Bischoff hit the ring and started kicking him for the DQ. Lex no-sold this and put Bischoff in the rack, but then Scott Steiner jumped him from behind. Rick Steiner ran out and the nWo scattered. This non-finish at least set up a tag match, so I was OK with it. Though I believe Bagwell suffered his neck injury on the ensuing Thunder, so that tag match likely never happened.

Chris Jericho vs. Super Calo. Jericho did a promo saying this was not Super Calo, it was Prince Nakamaki in a horrible Super Calo costume. He demanded Calo unmask. The ref tried to peek under Calo's mask to check without unmasking him, which let Jericho jump him to start the match. Somebody forgot the very first spot and time froze. That was not the end of the clunky wrestling here. Things went full circle as they screwed up the finish, then Jericho won with the Boston crab. Iaukea ran out and chased Jericho away. Jericho said this proved Iaukea had a twin brother.

Bret said he would always be there to help Sting.

Hammer vs. Saturn. Nobody gave a shit. Saturn hit the head-and-arm suplex and rings of Saturn for the win.

Rocco Rock vs. Goldberg. Rock was in trouble early but lured Goldberg outside and threw him into the post and stairs. He set up a table in the corner, but turned around Goldberg speared him through it, then hit the jackhammer for the win. Goldberg called out Saturn, who was ready to fight, but Raven ran out and stopped him. Kidman and Sick Boy tried to jump Goldberg from behind. This was a decision they would quickly regret. Heenan was just beside himself putting Goldberg over as the start to end all stars. You could tell he knew what a once-a-generation talent they had here.

Goldberg video package. Well this was some strange timing. They showed him killing what seemed like thousands of men.

Nitro party clips. Dorks. At least they had some girls there.

Yuji Nagata vs. Curt Hennig. Hennig came out with Rick Rude, and they stopped to say hello to Larry Hennig and DICK RUDE who were sitting together in the front row. Then Nagata grabbed Hennig by the ponytail and pulled him into the ring, where a FIGHT broke out. Hennig got the better of things, and he and Rude took turns assaulting Nagata in front of their fathers. Then they invited Larry to remove his sweater, revealing a "HENNIG RULES" shirt, and Curt then won with the fisherman's suplex. Total squash. Rude then handcuffed Nagata to the ropes and they double-teamed him. Jim Neidhart ran out to chase them away.

La Parka vs. Booker T. Heenan asked if Schiavonie had ever had a mask on. "In public," he clarified. They had a pretty good brawl, though people weren't much into it. Booker hit the scissors kick, flapjack, spinarooni, side kick, and missile dropkick for the win. Parka went to attack Booker with a chair afterwards, but Benoit hit the ring and wiped him out. Booker saw this and offered a handshake, but Benoit shoved him down. They shoved each other a bit, but nothing more came of it.

Raven-DDP video package.

Rage vs. DDP. Rage opted to hit a springboard splash here for not the finish. Page ran wild a bit and hit the diamond cutter for the win. Raven came out with the Flock asking what about himself. He repeated that it was Page's fault he had spent three years wrestling in barbed wire and fire. As Page was brawling with the Flock, the camera just barely caught somebody tackling Raven from behind before security intervened and tackled him to the ground. He was a big dude with a black ponytail, so it might have been Kanyon, but I'm not sure.

Konnan vs. Rick Steiner. Virgil went after Rick on the floor, so Ted DiBiase, who is still employed, jumped him to revive their rivalry. Rick made his comeback, DiBiase brawled with Vincent again, and Rick hit the diving bulldog for the win.

Sting-Savage-Hogan-Nash video package.

Kevin Nash vs. Sting. Nash took most of things early. Sting made a comeback and tried a bodyslam but collapsed under Nash's weight. They did Nash's usual methodical match. Every 30 seconds or so all the fans would jump up and look up the aisle or rafters to see if anyone was running in from somewhere. Sting escaped a bearhug and hit a series of Stinger splashes. NOW Savage came limping down to ringside. Liz took the ref and Savage waffled Sting with his cast. Garbage hit the ring. Nash made a cover but Sting kicked out. Why is Savage trying to ruin his own title shot? Nash hit the powerbomb and made a cover, but Bret yanked the ref out of the ring for the DQ. Did Sting ever once have a good day as champion? They neutered his title reign from Day 1. Hart put Nash in the sharpshooter, but the nWo attacked. Bret fought them off single-handedly as Sting lied helpless on the mat, and that continued as the show went off the air.

WWE Monday Night Raw (4/10/17)

They said tonight would be the Superstar Shakeup. John Cena's music hit, but out came Miz and Maryse dressed like Cena and Nikki Bella. I'm not totally sure how this works, but somehow Maryse imitating Nikki is somehow than either Maryse or Nikki. They ran down Cena and Nikki as bad actors. Fans were confused here, because they hated Cena, but they also hated Miz. Dean Ambrose came out. He is Intercontinental champion, in case you had forgotten like I had. He played along like they were really Cena and Nikki and said it was nice to see some familiar faces on his new show. He made a joke about Cena doing promos for 20 minutes. Interesting that everyone's taking shots at Cena now that he's gone. So Dean also buried Cena's acting, and also Miz's, and Marine 5. Miz said, idiot, I'm the Miz, she's Maryse. So Dean DDT'd him. What an odd segment.

Kurt Angle was on the phone backstage when Sami Zayn interrupted. He needed to know if he was staying on Raw or going to Smackdown. He said now that Kurt was there and Steph was gone, he wanted to stay on this show. Kurt said Sami had been a big part of Raw, but there had been a lot of interest from Smackdown. Sami was flattered to hear this. Miz and Maryse interrupted. Kurt finally said Sami was still on Raw for now, and would wrestle Kurt tonight.

Seth Rollins came out for a promo. He said after Mania, he was physically messed up, but mentally and emotionally at peace, because he did it. No, WE did it. He thanked them for helping him become the Kingslayer, which I guess is going to be a nickname now. He showed Steph going through the table at Mania, and said eventually Steph would return, and he would be her biggest enemy, so it would be easiest for him to go to Smackdown. This got a mixed reaction, then "NO!" chants. He's not leaving this particular episode, you idiots. Then he said he had taken the easy way out before and wouldn't again, and he was not leaving Raw without a fight. Out came Angle. He said Seth's win at Mania with a bad knee was comparable to his own win at the Olympics with a broken neck. Oh, come on. As GM of Raw, it was his job to put on the best show he could, and he wanted Seth on board. So they shook hands and Kurt left. Samoa Joe then jumped Seth from behind as Kurt tried to separate them. Eventually Joe bailed.

Charley interviewed Kevin Owens. He blew off the new faces on Raw and said the cream always rose to the top. He bragged about powerbombing Chris Jericho through a table last week, and said as the US champion, he was the top champion on Raw. She asked about Ambrose, and Owens said Dean could act all crazy with his IC title he wanted to, but if he got in Owens' face, Owens would show who was the top champion, because this was his show.

Charlotte vs. Nia Jax. Nia needs to be taken off this show immediately and sent back to the Performance Center for two months. This was a shitty match anyway, and then she picked up Charlotte and tried a shoulderbreaker, and in the process Charlotte's face dropped right on Nia's knee, and then right on the mat. Nia is going to fucking kill someone soon if she keeps going on like this. Charlotte made a comeback nobody cared about because they were both heels. Nia kicked out of natural selection. Charlotte tried a moonsault to the floor, and Nia did such a shitty job of catching her that she ate Charlotte's knees to the forehead, and then Charlotte landed face-first for the third time in three minutes. Nia won with an avalanche and Samoan drop. She's so terrible As for Charlotte, they've done everything they can possibly do with her on top, and with such a thin roster they've got no choice but to dump her down the card.

They let us know that Curt Hawkins was also on Raw now. Cool.

Finn Balor hype video. It was like he had never been on the show before. In fact, it was mostly NXT footage, so this may have been the same video when he came up the first time.

Jinder Mahal vs. Finn Balor. Finn did what might have been the first armdrag on Raw in 2017. All of Jinder's strikes looked like he was in a real fight. They showed an elbow in slow-mo that looked particularly brutal. Apparently this was where Balor suffered a concussion. Balor went on to win with the super dropkick and the coup de grace. They showed the elbow again, and not only did Jinder's elbow hit so hard it wiggled Finn's ears, but Finn also collapsed limp to the mat on his face. Are they TRYING to kill this guy? Finn's face afterwards looked like he had lost a UFC fight. Bray Wyatt appeared on the screen and said he would be facing Randy Orton in a "House of Horrors" match at Payback, but was coming to Raw and would have his eyes on Finn.

Apollo Crews, Kalisto, and Heath Slater & Rhyno were also announced as coming to Raw. Yes, Heath Slater and Rhyno are still a permanent team.

Sami Zayn vs. Miz. Sami also used armdrags. I guess, when you're working with someone you haven't worked with much before, you go back to the basics. He teased a dive, but stopped when Miz tried to hide behind Maryse. Later Sami tried the mafia kick but Maryse pulled Miz out of the ring to save him. She interfered a third time, which gave Miz a chance to try the skull crushing finale, but Sami turned it into a roll-up for the win. They said this was a big upset, which tells you how far Sami has fallen in their eyes.

They announced Ambrose vs. Owens tonight in the main event. This show was more than half over and they only just now announced the main event.

Michael Cole did a sitdown interview with Roman Reigns backstage. Roman said he didn't necessarily want to retire the Undertaker but he had done what he had to do. He looked up and started to tear the microphone off his shirt, but Braun Strowman attacked before he could do anything. They did some standard brawling, throwing Roman into pipes and stuff, and then Braun grabbed him and bieled him OVER some crates and through some tables. Jesus! Strowman kept up the assault, throwing him into the big metal garage door repeatedly and slamming him onto some kind of crate, then wheeling a crate into his head. Fans were chanting "YOU DESERVE IT!" which was awesome. They showed Roman being strapped to a board and put on a stretcher. Then there was a camera cut and Braun zoomed back in, pushing the stretcher off a loading dock in such a way that we never saw Roman on it. There was another camera cut, and suddenly Roman was down on the floor strapped to the board, now magically several feet closer to the loading dock than he had been. Then Roman was shown, still strapped to the board, being loaded into the ambulance. We heard Braun scream "I'M NOT FINISHED WITH YOU!" and he ran into the ambulance and started throwing punches. He left the ambulance, and you can actually hear the moment when the winch started firing up. With the winch's help, Strowman tipped the ambulance over, and it still looked fake. I watched this nearly a week after it happened, and I can't believe this went over so well, or that some people even really believed Strowman actually tipped an ambulance over. Most of this looked so silly and fake. I will say the presentation was very good, and the announcers were quiet the whole time to make it seem very serious.

Hardy Boys & Cesaro & Sheamus vs. Gallows & Anderson & Shining Stars. During intros, the Drifter wandered out on stage, much to the chagrin of Corey Graves. Heat on Cesaro, Broken Matt comeback, Jeff dive onto a bunch of guys, Twist of Fate, senton, pinfall. Babyfaces all celebrated together, and shook hands, even though Cesaro & Sheamus are getting a title shot at Payback. Hey, at least they're not trading losses going into the PPV.

Sasha Banks came out for a promo and immediately brought out Bayley. Bayley gave a lame thank you to the fans. Sasha congratulated her on the biggest win of her career and was about to challenge her to a title match when Alexa Bliss interrupted. She said she was the only one there who deserved recognition, for being two-time Smackdown champion and putting an end to the pathetic Sasha-Bayley storyline. She talked about how great she was when Mickie James interrupted. She declared herself the greatest women's champion in company history and said she was back on Raw, but then Nia Jax zoomed in and wiped her out. She climbed into the ring and Alexa pushed Sasha into her and ran away. Sasha and Bayley both got Samoan dropped.

They recapped the Roman attack, saying he had a separated shoulder. That's IT? God this show. Also, they showed a headcount of the current Raw and Smackdown rosters, and Raw appeared to outnumber the opposition like ten-to-one.

Kevin Owens vs. Dean Ambrose. This was a forgettable match with nothing at stake and no long-term ramifications and both wrestlers and all the fans knew it. They traded and teased finishers for a while, and Dean hit his DDT for the win. Jericho then came out and laid Owens out with a codebreaker.

WWE NXT (4/12/17)

They got a new song and intro for the show, which was long overdue. Felt like the old one was several NXT generations old.

Aleister Black vs. Corey Hollis. The bell rang, Aleister eyeballed Mr. Hollis, then immediately hit the spinning superkick for the win. Then he sat cross-legged in the ring like it was all nothing to him. Well this was a good squash.

They showed Tye Dillinger confronting Curt Hawkins on Smackdown. No Ming the Merciless headgear, but he got the win with the Tye-breaker. Kayla then interviewed Tye, who said he had unfinished business in NXT, and so Mr. Regal had granted him a match against Eric Young next week. And to make sure Sanity did not interfere, it would be in a steel cage.

DIY vs. Dylan Miley & Michael Blaze. Miley would have been main eventing against Bruno Sammartino if he had been born 40 years earlier. He's 6 and a half feet tall and a thick 300 pounds, and he's bald with a scraggly beard. Nigel compared him to Maurice Tillett. He muscled DIY around and made them look silly, including running right through a clothesline that Ciampa threw full force. Speaking of looking silly, Blaze looks like his hair is naturally white, but he dyed it black, then let it grow out. As soon as he tagged in DIY killed him to death and won with the kneestrike/superkick. Well this was something different. Miley then destroyed Blaze, including chokeslams and a big powerslam.

They showed Ember Moon losing to Asuka at Takeover. Then hours after the show, as the arena was empty and the crew was almost done tearing things down, Ember walked out in sadness. They had her own voice narrating this, how it was supposed to be her moment, her opportunity. Sad music played as she talked about Asuka proving she would do anything to retain the title. She promised she would be the one, and the next champion. This was totally hokey but I liked it.

Ruby Riot vs. Kimberly Frankele. Ruby did an inset promo about fighting Sanity, and coming to NXT to be women's champion. It wasn't bad. Kimberly's last name is spelled like it should be "Frank-ell," but apparently it's pronounced "Frankly." Frankly, that's annoying. Announcers ignored this and just called her "Frank-kull." A minute or so into the match, Nikki Cross came out to distract Ruby, which let Frankele get the heat. The gimmick, by the way, is that her name was Kimber Lee on the indies. They took turns chopping the piss out of each other, then Riot made her comeback and won with a wacky kick. Frankele looked promising here, though if she keeps bumping on the points of her elbows she's going to get hurt.

Peyton Royce and Billie Kay were filming themselves being annoying backstage when they stopped to harrass Aliyah and Liv Morgan. One of them got shoved into an ice bath. The other one kept filming. This was wacky.

Oney Lorcan vs. Drew McIntyre. Sadly, Drew has new theme music. It's bagpipes over heavy metal, which sounds like it would be cool, but his old music was so unique and fitting. He is tall, of course, but also looks much bigger and more cut than he used to be on Smackdown. And his wrestling looked awesome, particularly when Lorcan tried a plancha but Drew caught him in gutwrench position (!!!) and slammed him into the apron. Even that big spot aside, though, these dudes were MOVING. They tried to do a spot where Drew was hung in the Tree of Woe, but he's so tall that when he fell backwards his head hit the mat. He was still able to sit up and hit a belly-to-belly. Orney fought back with a series of slaps, but Drew cut him off with a reverse Alabama slam and finished him off with a sick kick. Great NXT main event and Drew in particular looked phenomenal. Like, if he keeps this up, no way he's still in developmental by SummerSlam. Kayla then interviewed Drew, asking him why he was in NXT. Drew said he had spent years building a reputation and could have signed anywhere in the world, including Raw or SmackDown, but this was where he wanted to be. Well that's a lie. But he delivered it convincingly.

Percy Watson is terrible at doing voiceovers for sponsors. Just wanted to mention that.

Shinsuke Nakamura came out to do his farewell promo. Nakamura in all black with his hair pulled back in a ponytail and then crimped was something else. He said he had been experienced and a champion in Japan, but had come to NXT to face the best in the world. One year later, he thought NXT was home. He had learned a lot from NXT superstars, coaches, and fans. "The NXT universe is CRAZY!" he declared, and they all went nuts. He said their chants and singing made them different, and NXT was their style. "WE ARE NXT -- YEA-OH!" he finally declared. Is that the first time he's actually said that on this show? They actually found a woman crying in the crowd. Dude, he's not dead, he's getting a promotion. All the roster came out on stage to applaud him, and they all looked so happy. All of them, that is, except Hideo Itami, who looked like the most miserable son of a bitch you ever saw. I laughed so hard. Nakamura posed with the group, including Itami (who was still pissed) and Finn Balor, who randomly came out to hug him. This show has gotten a badly needed infusion of fresh blood.