Posts Tagged ‘Asuka’

If at the end of 2015, somebody were to show you this image, and told you that it would be happening in 2016, odds are that you almost definitely wouldn’t believe then.


SmackDown is live? AJ Styles is WWE Champ? And OH MY GOD James Ellsworth is… who’s James Ellsworth?

Looping best-of-three-PPVs feuds are so formulaic that it is easy for some to shrug proceedings off as boring. Has booking really been that uninteresting though? Of course not.

2016 sought to prove otherwise, and for better or for worse, did a great job. Over the last twelve months, WWE have dreamt up things that comedy sites like Kayfabe News wouldn’t have done. This is less about just devestating moments (for example, the retirement of Daniel Bryan caused massive upset), and more about the surprises. Here are some 100% true headlines surrounding booking choices that would have seriously confused any wrestling fan just one year ago.

(WrestleMania 32, April 3rd) 

Fans have been drinking in the Gift of Jericho. 2016 has been incredible for him, and he has been revered for his role in the top-tier, alongside Kevin Owens. He has been incredibly in touch with fans’ desires, even if it is wearing a scarf, growing a moustache and calling everyone “stupid idiots”. With such popularity, a victory for him might forgiven on most days. But this wasn’t ‘most days’. His opponent was A.J. Styles, who had arrived in Royal Rumble 2016.

The match itself was great, but the result angered many. Jericho had stated that he would be leaving WWE (liar!), and did not need this win. Regardless of the result, a lot of spectacular rare signature moves by Styles were wasted (such as Styles’ 450 Splash) and weakened in reputation by the 45-year-old Jericho kicking out. Looking back now, the result did no harm, and Styles is WWE Champion.

(WrestleMania 32, April 3rd)

This would have caused a lot of confusion, and disappointment when actually explained. This, for me, was the most infuriating part of WrestleMania – The Rock’s surprise appearance. It turned out that the disaster of his appearance at Royal Rumble ’15 was a one-off. Rocky came out to address the crowd for over twenty-minutes, reeling off (disproved) info on the record-breaking attendance, and the standard checklist of catchphrases.

The Wyatt Family arrived to face-off with The Rock. The Wyatts got a far more positive reaction than WWE had probably hoped, considering how The Rock insulted absolutely everything about their demeanour, rendering them obsolete. The last nail came when The Rock challenged Erick Rowan to a match, which lasted for six-seconds. Then a still injured John Cena helped take out the rest of The Wyatts.

Fans have wanted The Wyatts to catch their break forever. This segment was the epitome of booking stupidity.

(Raw, April 4th)

Where on earth does one begin with this one? How about at the end of the story. Shane McMahon was shockingly back and Vince McMahon welcomed him on the Raw after WrestleMania. However, the second half of the above statement shows that the journey to this point had been a ridiculous and messy one. Under what circumstance would Shane-o-Mac be booked to face The Undertaker at WrestleMania, in a Hell in a Cell match? As it turned out, according to his statement live on Raw, to give Shane “another fucking beating”. There really was little-to-no substance to Shane’s presence. Although this match started the road to the brand split, there is nothing to add to that headline, and nothing else to say.

The match itself was nothing to write home about. It was a show of Shane’s signature moves, leading to him throwing himself off of the cell, onto Taker. Fans had joked for a long time about one last jump, and said that it would never happened. Well now we’ve seen it. Sadly, too much of it, as the producers backstage screwed up and we got a full look at the airbag that he really landed on. And hilariously, you can also see Michael Cole reading his big “as God is my witness, he is broken in half speech” directly from a clipboard.

Looking back now, the end result was OK, but was a waste of a year for Taker, whose days are clearly numbered, and has a few dream opponents left who will never get their Taker at WM match.

(SummerSlam, August 21st)

This really was a moment that took some people a while to comprehend. Finn Balor had been drafted to RAW, having graduated from NXT. On his first match on the main roster, Balor became the first man to cleanly pin the overly protected Roman Reigns, in four years. And what on earth is this WWE Universal Championship? It might sound like a really daft writing idea, belonging in the same canon as Broken Matt Hardy, but is (luckily) just RAW’s humourously desperate attempt at one-upping SmackDown’s World Championship. Hopefully neither brand will create a Galactic Championship, but it wouldn’t be of any surprise.

Of course, this closes on the sadder note as straight after Balor vs Rollins at SummerSlam, Balor was forced to vacate the title, due to a shoulder injury. One noteworthy moment of the match was Rollins unleashing the very dangerous God’s Last Gift move on Balor, which Rollins hasn’t performed since actually being ‘Seth Rollins’. It’s a pity that it was done so unceremoniously, and kicked out of afterwards. Speaking of which…

(Cruiserweight Classic Quarterfinals, August 26th)

Impressed by the new WWE Universal Championship? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Absolutely everything about the sentence above is completely mind-boggling. To start with there are the wrestlers – the presence of Japanese legend Kota Ibushi in a WWE tournament, and the return of The Brian Kendrick (who would later become the WWE Cruiserweight World Champion). Oh, and there is the fact that there is even such a thing as a WWE Cruiserweight World Championship – brilliant news, however purple the belt is.

The cherry on the cake here though is the use of a ‘Burning Hammer’, commonly considered one of, if not the most dangerous manoeuvres in wrestling. Considering the dark cloud surrounding the dreaded and forbidden piledriver, this was stunning. Sadly, Ibushi was booked to kick out of the move – a bigger waste than Jericho kicking out of Styles’ 450 Splash, and Finn Balor kicking out of Seth Rollins’ God’s Last Gift. It’s a disappointing ongoing policy of WWE – ever match that ends with a pin, can’t end with anything that isn’t a finishing move.

(No Mercy, October 9th)

Welcome to probably the best feud of 2016 – The Miz vs Dolph Ziggler. Considering Ziggler’s reputation as a fan favourite who is booked mostly as filler in the mid-card, it would have been baffling to even see Ziggler on the brink of becoming a champion once again. The fact that it would be booked as important enough to warrant a stipulation like ‘Title vs Career’ brings the highest degree of importance to the mid-card title. Oh, and who could ever expected the appearance of The Spirit Squad?

This feud was absolutely incredible, as it acknowledged the on-off history of Ziggler’s booking, and made The Miz the most horrid villain in the WWE. As top-tier heels have been misguidedly booked and perhaps been too likeable (for example, Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho are too entertaining that nobody wants to see defeated. And AJ Styles is… AJ Styles). However, The Miz has been the most incredible man on the mic this year (peaking during his shocking segment in Talking Smack). The feud took the best possible route, as Ziggler won in a massive feel good moment at No Mercy, and lost the title weeks later in a brilliant ladder match with The Miz. With The Miz champion again, he is destined for another amazing feud in 2017.

(Hell in a Cell, October 30th)

There is a RAW Women’s Championship? Charlotte has won the title three times already? And the women have finally been allowed into the cell? And they headlined the event? It sounds like a dream come true, although some have since argued that this was not the monumental occasion that it should have been. To a point, I agree.

To start with, is the number of times that the title has changed hands. While there is no reason why it couldn’t happen, it probably shouldn’t have happened for two reasons: 1. Too much attention had been drawn to these two women over anybody else in the division, and 2. Having held the title three times in less than a year, somewhat dilutes its importance. As for the match, it was definitely styled to look like an important event – for example Sasha Banks being stretchered off having been put through a table, styled like a lighter version of Mankind’s famous fall from the cell in 1998. It wasn’t perfect, and as of December 2016, the title still seems to be fought for by only these two wrestlers. Hopefully, with the list of matches happening for the first time in the Women’s Division, is shrinking, more wrestlers will become involved.

(NXT TakeOver: Toronto, November 19th)

On the other end of the scale, NXT really have opened up when it has come to opportunities. Look no further than the decision to bring Mickie James in for her first WWE match in six years, to take on Asuka – new champion in 2016. This could have been a very poor decision, and considering how one of the primary talking points of her career was when she grabbed Trish Stratus’ crotch at WrestleMania, one could be forgiven for being pessimistic. However, there was no need. While NXT has seen a few superior women’s matches, Mickie did not disappoint, delivering what some have called the greatest match of her career.

Looking back on this, I am in two minds about this event. I’m very positive due to the quality of the match itself, however I was admittedly quite disappointed when this match was first announced. This was the first women’s TakeOver match to be more novel that a standard singles match, since TakeOver: Respect (headlined by Sasha Banks and Bayley’s Iron Man match), and NXT decided that the twist would be from bringing in another veteran. This to me indicates the confirmation that NXT has well and truly lost the agenda of being developmental territory, and has grown to a scale that it can never step back from. Fingers crossed that this doesn’t jeopardise the progress of talent such as Peyton Royce and Liv Morgan.

(Survivor Series, November 20th)

For the most part when writing these, it has been a matter of shoehorning as much unlikely information into the space of one sentence. In this instance, there is no point. Bill Goldberg showed up, was signed up for a match against the unstoppable Brock Lesnar, and he won. This is perfectly representative of WWE being so painfully formulaic that something so barmy as a 49-year-old wrestler, turning up for his first match in twelve years and defeating Lesnar in eighty-six seconds, is accepted.

Fans even surprised themselves, pondering “why am I so happy about this?”. Venturing a guess, this was the opposite of the upset surround The Rock and The Wyatts at WrestleMania – neither side needed a victory, so the most ridiculous enjoyable result was allowed to happen. If Lesnar had done the same thing, groans would resume about the pointlessness of the match.

While it’s confirmed that Lesnar and Goldberg will be in the 2017 Royal Rumble, we can’t be entirely sure what comes next. The novelty might wear off quickly, but for the time being? Wow.


The NXT singles championship has changed hands at a house show before – Samoa Joe won his title at a house show Lowell, Massachusetts in April 2016. However, this is not what makes the matter especially shocking. It is the fact that the title was taken by SHINSUKE NAKAMURA!

His shocking arrival in 2016 was great, debuting in-person (having challenged Sami Zayn to a match on the screen in the Full Sail studio) at NXT TakeOver: Dallas, in what might be my favourite match of 2016 – Nakamura vs. Zayn. NXT promoted his arrival as though it was the most important moment in the history of NXT. If the promotion has decided that it isn’t developmental any more, it may as well do things properly, and man they are.

And most surprising of all? Considering how the company have changed names to mononyms, such as (Adrian) Neville, Big E (Langston) and (Alexander) Rusev, Shinsuke Nakamura is at least as of December 2016, still called Shinsuke Nakamura. Will it last?

Which other WWE moments of 2016 would have sounded outrageous in 2015, and what is the most outrageous thing that you think is actually possible in 2017? Post below.



“Sunday night, I got my ass kicked. It isn’t the first time, and it sure as hell won’t be the last time. But I’d-a hadda been dead if you didn’t think I was coming here to be with you tonight.” – Triple H

Considering the racket that the sold out SSE Arena made throughout the night, there were over ten-thousand here who felt the same way. Indeed, just in case you missed the memo, NXT TakeOver: London was awesome, and I was lucky enough to be there. Here is a review, ranking the eight matches we witnessed that night.



This match was over and done with in a-minute-of-a-half, which was a real pity considering the big reaction that Dempsey got during his entry, although there was an awkward near-silence as Samson arrived. This was filmed to function as his ‘re-debut’ in front of ten-thousand fans and appear next week on NXT’s weekly show. Unfortunately, I’m not convinced that this got nearly the reaction that NXT had hoped for, as Samson was on the receiving end of “You look stupid” and “You’re a hipster” chants, and as he mimed along on his guitar to his own music after his victory, cruelly this was quite the case. He’s clearly going to be billed as a gloomy and dark character, wandering along a lonely road (perhaps taking the ‘loner’ role from Baron Corbin as he gains further momentum). However, he is in serious danger of being a caricature image just as Solomon Crowe was if NXT aren’t careful, and it will probably stay that way until a match closes with that guitar going over someone’s head.

Score: D-



If I can even dare call anything a disappointment tonight, it would be this match. There was actually an awkward atmosphere as the superiority of the excitement around the opening two matches stuck out like a sore thumb. Very loud being demoted to… just loud, made the crowd seem more bored than they really were. This match wasn’t bad in the slightest, as both showed brilliant feats of strength, with Crews plummeting a long way into the ring steps over the ropes, thrown by Corbin (“You should have stayed at Ring of Honor!” Considering Uhaa Nation never wrestled at Ring of Honor, Corbin won’t be forgiven for that for a while.) Reaction was primarily “fuck you Corbin” until Corbin got a similar plummet of his own, followed by a moonsault to the outside by Crews. However, one standing moonsault from Crews, and one End of Days from Corbin later, Corbin got the pin.

Score: C+



“We want Gable.” So said the audience, with a massive fixation on Jason Jordan and Chad Gable. A lot. In spite of being the dark match, this was perhaps the loudest chant of the whole night. This match was such a tangle that this was very difficult to keep track of, and not only because I was so distracted by Alexa Bliss at the side of the ring (my biggest disappointment of the night was not getting to see Bliss wrestle). Even when only two men were in the ring, this was fast paced from the beginning as Simon Gotch of The Vaudevillains, and Gable would not let go of one another.

The match ended with ‘Suplex City’ as Jason Jordan clearly the ring of everybody with an array of different suplexes. More than anything, this match was a big spot fest. But then, that’s the nature of an effective dark match – building excitement, however ridiculous the outcome was. After all, that corny spot where a suicide dive leads to multiple people being knocked over? It happened twice.

The biggest disappoint didn’t come from the match itself, but the crowd. As brilliant as they were all night, it was heartbreaking to see and hear the sheer indifference for The Hype Bros. Whatever happened, Zack Ryder?

Score: B



Where Asuka vs Emma was more a wrestling showcase (more on that later), Bayley vs Nia Jax was an entertaining story-telling match. For comparison, think back to Wrestlemania 31. The first was Rollins vs Orton, and the second was Lesnar vs Reigns.

But down in the bottom half? Don’t panic everyone. The show was just that good. This was for the most part, what it was meant to be. Fans may fantasize of a stiffer match if NXT are emphasizing upon Nia Jax being a monster, especially considering some of the frighteningly savage moments between Bayley and Banks, but considering the inexperience of Jax, some had little faith in this being a classic. While it wasn’t a classic, there was no need to worry – this was awesome.

This was booked perfectly for what it was with plenty of nasty slams and drops from Jax, with Bayley having little choice but to resort primarily to holds (by which she won). Bayley didn’t suddenly spring to her feet in a ‘moves of doom’ fashion. This realistically told a story, showing that Bayley’s only choice was to tear at Jax, at least whenever just had the opportunity. A desperate Jax threw Bayley around like a ragdoll during the second half of the match. While still not nearly as accomplished as him, Jax is effectively being booked as powerful and whiney, in a similar vein to Kevin Owens.

Score: B+



Sami Zayn is back! This could have been a showcase of Sami Zayn’s signature spots to mark his return, but whereas this could have been over in five minutes, this was given far longer. It was a brilliant idea to give Tye Dillinger a few minutes to have the upper hand over Zayn, exploiting the moment to give Dillinger a while to show of. This primarily was a beatdown by Dillinger, while Zayn found his feet (this was booked as his first match in seven months, in spite of wrestling Balor almost every day for the last week) and the second half a showcase of his signature crowd-pleasing moves (ie Blue Thunder Bomb, over the rope dive, and closing on a brutal Helluva Kick).

Adding to the charm was just how hilarious that Dillinger was, with an almost sarcastic cartwheel to tease Zayn, and brilliant reactions to the abuse that the crowd gave him. I’m interested about whether the producers will have a go at editing out the “fuck your top knot” and “top knot wanker”. In spite of the heel chants, this might just be the happiest that a crowd has been to see Dillinger, as there had been “Ten! Ten! Ten!” all night – even during Sami Zayns post-match promo. That’s why you get for mentioning that there were ten-thousand people in Wembley Arena…

Score: B+



However daft that Finn Balor looks, there is no denying that he is fantastic in the ring. It did feel as though there were enough teased spots throughout, such as a Super Muscle Buster from from Samoa Joe, and a ‘suicide’ Coup de Grace from Balor, that I imagine that they have another Takeover match in them to fulfill these spots. This was both a great match, and a tease of the future.

The match escalated quickly beginning with a tangle of hold, and within a couple of minutes, Joe had been dropkicked and launched out of the ring. It did feel that sometimes the beatdown on Balor was a bit long (though there was a fantastic smug minute or so where Joe changed his hold once every few seconds primarily just to show off his expertise. This was a great match.

Score: B+



With Bayley the champion, the ‘Daniel Bryan’ underdog-like fixture has now been given to Enzo Amore & Big Cass, who squared off with Dash & Dawson for the NXT Tag Team Championship. The challengers had the crowd wrapped around their fingers, and put on a brilliant show both in their double-teaming (in particular a huge rocket launcher onto the champions) and alone (Enzo’s DDT from the top rope and sending Dawson face first into the canvas multiple times). The crowd went ballistic when after Amore took a nasty, action packed five-minute beatdown, Big Cass got a hot tag, and came to the rescue. Dash & Dawson are brilliant heels, unleashing all the tricks in the book, even using Carmella as a human shield, before delivering a final Shatter Machine for a win.

With regards to long term bookings, the right men won, as there isn’t a hope in hell that people won’t still be shouting along word for word with Amore and Cass as they enter whether at Takeover: Dallas or beyond. It was a bit of a pity how Enzo and Cass didn’t get to win for the sake of there being a spectacular pop there. If there is one thing I left the event having learned, it’s just how many different songs there are that one can sing the words ‘Enzo Amore’ to.

Having now watched the show back, honorable mention goes to Corey Graves discussing British culture during Amore and Cass’ entrance: “They call them ‘chavs’. They’re the worst kind of people.”. I can’t decide whether this was an ingenious heel call calling them ‘chavs’ or an awkward misunderstanding in a similar vein to Michael Cole calling Newcastle a ‘small mining town’, but either, that is the best quote I’ve heard from WWE commentary all year.

Score: A-



Yes. The secondary women’s match was longer that Bayley vs Nia Jax, and the most entertaining of the night.

Even in NXT, which opened many an eye to women’s wrestling, who would have thought that this match would be of such a high quality? The secondary women’s match, which opened the show, is generally assigned to be “the three-minute one with the cheating and the hair pulling”, but was fifteen-minutes long. However, it was brilliantly entertaining, surprisingly technical, with some nasty moments from the beginning, with Emma on the receiving end of a savage hip attack against the step, only to deliver back a horrifyingly looking butterfly suplex into the corner to the victorious Asuka. After these moments, there were some desperate submissions and squashes face-first into the ring by Emma, before an attempting to frame Asuka with using a chain as weapon after the referee was knocked out, and Dana Brooke distracting the referee from Emma tapping to the Asuka Lock.

Ordinarily, moments like that might be frowned upon, but the match was so masterfully booked that it began as a very good women’s match, and evolved into personality in sheer desperation by the second half. On top of that, as the opening match of the night, we knew that those spots were exhaust from the start of the show, and that we were in for brilliant things throughout NXT Takeover: London.

Score: A

How would you rank the matches that night? Leave your comments below.

What should be asked of a perfect wrestling event crowd? I, and many others, thought they witnessed it on 16th December 2015, though others weren’t nearly so happy…

I just thought that I would get this off my chest after reading some reviews of last night’s fantastic NXT Takeover: London, which I had the pleasure of witnessing in person (a review is coming up). It is not on the subject of the matches, but on the audience. During Asuka and Emma’s brilliant opening match, Corey Graves quipped “Does Dana Brooke ever stop talking?”. Probably not. However, they had far more chance of shutting up Dana than London’s wrestling fans tonight, whose ecstatic screams could probably be picked up on the Richter scale.

Almost non-stop during NXT Takeover: London, the sold out SSE Arena in Wembley rattled on its foundations as the British crowd brought their own chants to the table, based upon football (in a soccer sense) mainstays. Having a nose around Reddit upon getting home, understandably with a very sore throat, it was interesting to find just how much of the live feed of comments was centred upon these chants, especially as besides at the unaired shows during the UK tour, many of them came across as entirely new. Online comments were primarily variants of “How the hell does the UK crowd even manage this”, “why couldn’t the crowd in [the last event they attended] be like this?”, “where are these new chants coming from?” and “why do they never get any PPVs?”.

For the most part, it was well received. In fact so well received that it caused the odd problem, as Bayley visibly struggled to keep a straight face while a “Hey Bayley, ooh-aah, I wanna know if you’ll be my girl” (to the tune of Bruce Channel’s ‘Hey Baby’) rang around the arena while she was meant to look slightly worried before her match against the monstrous Nia Jax. Similarly, Big Cass smirked while watching his own tag team partner being beaten to a pulp set to a “Na-na-na-naaa, Big Cass” being sung to the tune of The Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’.

That said, there were some who weren’t so grateful – enter the legendary wrestling writer Dave Meltzer who had some stern words to say about the audience. In his review Bayley and Nia Jax’s great match: “During the first part of the match, the crowd was more into serenading (sic) Bayley with songs (“Hey Baby” (sic), “Bayley’s Gonna Hug You”) and wasn’t really paying attention to the flow of the match. The match itself was mostly Jax using power moves and the crowd not taking it seriously. But after Bayley kept kicking out of legdrops that they thought were the finish, the crowd was into the match itself and the singing stopped.”

Sorry Dave, but I beg to differ. This crowd could not have been any more in sync with the event. In fact, I think that besides some of the most shocking moments in NXT programming, I have not seen an NXT crowd being nearly as connected to the action as they were in London, as opposed to detached and going about their own noisy business and focusing upon themselves. This begs the question of what Dave Meltzer, and anyone in general is after when they are after from a crowd.

The ultimate pet hate of my own is when a crowd makes a point of stating that how superior they, and the show, is to something else. While “NXT!” is just about how NXT is great, nothing justifies the smug “This is wrestling!” or “Women’s wrestling!” chants heard quite often at Full Sail. This can be spotted too in the main roster with the crowd’s attempts at winding up WWE Creative with “CM Punk!”, “Daniel Bryan!” and “We want Sasha!”, when they are obviously not on the card that week.

Nothing came across as especially self-righteous, and if it were, then it certainly didn’t state it bluntly. Beyond one piece of cardboard in the crowd that read ‘NXT > RAW’, and there were two very brief “women’s wrestling!” chants during Asuka vs Emma, and Bayley vs Jax, there was nothing linked to the superiority of anything beyond the face of the match. Just that it was great, and there was zero context with anything outside the arena either. During the match that Meltzer cites in the above quote, Bayley was cheered, Jax was booed, and if daft chants like “Hey Bayley…” started again, it was when egging Bayley on to get back to her feet. Also, not once all night was there mention of location. No “UK!”, “England!”, “Wembley!”, or anything anti-USA.

The most defining moment hasn’t yet been broadcast totally, although it will be on WWE NXT at some point in the coming weeks – Sami Zayn vs Tye Dillinger, recorded after Finn Balor vs Samoa Joe. And it demonstrated everything that was right about those chants. All night when there were close count-outs, a Dillinger signature “TEN! TEN! TEN!” chant broke out with everyone’s hands aloft. Subsequently, when Dillinger arrived, the crowd was ecstatic – arguably coming across just as excited to see him as they were to see Sami Zayn. This was not an attempt to engulf the match at all, but part of the engrossed party-like atmosphere that a WWE event asks for, and the main roster has tried to, but failed to emulate in booking for a very long time. When the bell rang, the cheers for Dillinger suddenly switched off, and the crowd was instantly fine-tuned to boo Dillinger until he was pinned. Both men were then applauded. (4:10 for the moment where Sami Zayn makes the mistake of using the word “ten”.)

What more could anybody want from an audience besides the precise silent opposite (commonly associated with Japanese wrestling shows), than to be punctuating everything that was going on, down to the preciseness of boos and cheers as Asuka and Emma countered one another’s locks in quick succession. “Oooh-yeah-ooh…”

Anyway, that’s me done. A review of the event is coming up. What did you think of NXT Takeover: London’s British touch (or rather, SCREAM)? Comments below.