The Wrap Up: The Workhorse
Updated: Jan 16
7. Orange Cassidy vs. Trent Seven, AEW Rampage
AEW knows they have a star in Orange Cassidy, as they keep using him to either open the show to get a hot crowd or close Rampage, forcing fans to stay until the end to see him. Cassidy faced mystery opponent Trent Seven this week. I loved watching Seven bring the UK style of wrestling to AEW’s brand. AEW has to be the only show where you can see styles of wrestling from all over the world in one hour. They have also created a special atmosphere where it feels like free agents and stars from non-WWE promotions can pop in at any time.
6. Brawling Brutes and Imperium, WWE SmackDown
Two of the best matches on SmackDown came from the work of these factions. It’s unfortunate that the Usos have a stronghold on both tag team championships right now because the Brawling Brutes are putting forth white-hot work in-ring. Likewise, Imperium has been missing from SmackDown on and off, but every match they touch turns into gold. Ricochet is going to have a slobber knocker with Gunther, and Ludwig Kaiser/Giovanni Vinci could be great champions as well. It made me think that WWE may want to finally cave in like AEW and form a Trios Championship. They have a lot of current factions that would fit the criteria, and it would allow them to better use the depth of their roster.
5. Women’s Triple Threat Matches, WWE Raw
The Women’s Triple Threat Matches in the first hour and main event of Raw were everything I wanted to see in a weekly show. They had clear stakes to see who would challenge Bianca Belair next, and they gave the women time to shine in-ring. I’m not sure if they picked the same winners I would have, but I’m trusting them to tell longer stories with Bayley and Becky Lynch. Maybe they are holding back a bigger match like Bianca Belair vs. Rhea Ripley for WrestleMania.
4. Last-Chance Qualifiers, NXT
Eerily similar to the Women’s matches on Raw, NXT last-chance qualifiers opened and closed the show for NXT. It gave a chance for winners Axiom and Indi Hartwell to show that they belonged in the crop of handpicked superstars for the Iron Survivor match. We still don’t know what the first Iron Survivor match will look like, but I thought NXT did a good job this week building story between the characters in a short amount of time.
3. New Day on NXT, NXT
What do you do with a team that has done it all on the main roster? The risky move to send WWE’s Tag Team Division equivalent to John Cena to NXT could pay off huge. The New Day immediately played off the most entertaining team in NXT of Pretty Deadly. If used right, the New Day could do what Charlotte Flair didn’t in her NXT run and make future stars out of everyone, bettering the future of tag team wrestling for the whole company.
2. Ricky Starks, AEW Dynamite
He may not be the biggest star in AEW, but he carries himself like one. After winning the Dynamite Diamond Battle Royal, Ricky Starks cut another promo of the year candidate on MJF. Everyone in the locker room should want to work with Starks because he brings fire to everything he does. He will be a great first opponent for MJF, and he should go on to win a championship like the TNT or All-Atlantic.
1. Josh Alexander vs. Mike Bailey, Impact Wrestling
I haven’t seen an Impact Wrestling PPV, but I have to imagine this is the closest I’ll get to one. We have seen other companies do this type of match, but I didn’t expect Impact’s Champion and Workhorse to go one hour to end the show Thursday. The contrast between Josh Alexander being THE guy for Impact’s Main Event scene and Mike Bailey being the one who carries their X Division midcard every week made for an entertaining clash on weekly TV. It was a creative risk that paid off huge and made me more invested in watching Impact moving forward.
Reverse Hipster’s Lowlights
6. (NXT) Andre Chase
Andre Chase had an excellent showing in the last qualifying match for Deadline. However, the ending of the triple threat qualifying match was just flat out stupid. Chase hit a diving cross body on Von Wagner. Chase just rolled out of the ring and eliminated himself so that Axiom could capitalize and win the match. It made no sense and it's such a simple fix. Have Axiom take Andre out, then pin Wagner instead of having Andre Chase look like a goof. Also, that decision messed up the exclamation point of what was a really good match.
5. (Impact) The Design
Last week, I raved about Deaner and Violent by Design. This week, I think they have gone slightly in the wrong direction. First off, they didn’t need to change their name from Violent by Design. What about all the yellow-hooded followers they had? That was a cool angle. Now, it's just over. I’m glad The Design beat Sami Callihan because that means at least they are being taken seriously. However, I think Deaner has gone in the wrong direction. He came out as a sick personality type who enjoys inflicting pain and is weird. I think he should have come out like a guy who just killed someone. Like he's on edge and he could fly off the handle at any moment. After what he did to Eric Young, he has the credibility to be that guy.
4. (NXT) Bron Breakker and Apollo Crews
NXT took a good thing and ruined it. When Bron Breakker and Apollo Crews got their own vignettes, it was cool. It was reminiscent of Bret Hart and Shawn Michael's training videos before their upcoming fight. They gave us insight into the fighters and showed us how much the fight meant to them by how they were training. Even when Apollo and Bron met at the diner, it was good. They had an awkward tension about who was going to win the title. However, their latest vignette, where they fished together was terrible. They were just hanging around and that was our last picture before they fought for the title. I don’t want to see them having a friend fest before they fight for the title. I want to see them more focused and more determined than ever to win.
3. (SmackDown) Ronda Rousey & Shayna Baszler
I think WWE has taken Ronda and Shayna in the wrong direction. I’m glad they are together. I think it's the absolute best move, but the execution could use some work. I know Ronda has a lot of personality and I could see why WWE would want to put that on display. However, I think it would be best if Ronda and Shayna dialed it back. They should stop trying to come up with one-liners because it is very cringey. The bull in a china shop ruined the SmackDown backstage segment because it was so cringe. Then, Liv Morgan had to respond to the cringe and she somehow managed to make it okay at the end.
However, Ronda has been on fire all year, but this current run is cooling her off. She needs to stop being told to be a cocky smart ass because it isn’t who she is. I see that she is committing, but I also don’t believe that in her heart of hearts that she believes the lines she is saying. Ronda and Shayna need to go back to being badass. Being badasses who had a few intimidating lines here or there is how they got to where they are today. We just need prime Ronda and prime Shayna to unite instead of whatever this is.
2. (Dynamite) Hayters Gonna Hate
I don’t know much about the Regina di Wave Championship. However, Hayter informed me on Dynamite that it's not an important title. She said it doesn’t compare to the AEW Women’s Title. Tony Schiavone agreed. Then, Hayter turned a match that was supposed to be a Wave Championship Match into a #1 Contenders Match for her title. I’d rather AEW just have a contenders match for Hayter’s title without devaluing a championship from another brand.
1. (Dynamite) William Regal
The Regal situation has been handled horribly. If AEW knew he was leaving, they shouldn’t have sent him off the way they did. He spent his whole career here as a babyface, and, just before he leaves, they turn him heel. So the actual babyfaces will never get revenge on him and this huge plot point is just dropped. Also, AEW tried to retcon the heel turn and explain it all at the same time. It made zero sense. Regal supposedly betraying Jon Moxley for his own good is absolute nonsense. AEW ruined a great character and faction, and damaged MJF's crowning moment.
I’m not just critiquing this without an alternative. AEW's whole solution could have been the one injury segment with MJF. MJF should have cashed in his chip earlier than what he said, winning the World Title from Jon Moxley in an unfair way. Then, their Full Gear match could be the rematch and first full-length match. The fans would assume in a full match, MJF wouldn’t stand a chance. However, there, MJF could hit Regal with the Dynamite Diamond Ring. The distraction of the leader of the Blackpool Combat Club being taken out could distract Mox and give MJF the win. That way, MJF stays a despicable villain, wins the title, gets his revenge on Regal, and sends Regal off as a hero.
Reverse Hipster’s Winners of the Week
6th Place Raw
Raw is in last place again, but I can see that they are making strides to be a better show. The triple threats were good and so were the six-man tags. Also, I can tell they made a concerted effort to build a world for the Raw characters with the poker game. Hopefully, the seeds they planted bear fruit next week.
5th Place Rampage
Rampage had matches that mattered. However, they were mostly predictable matches, with the exception of Darby Allin and Samoa Joe. Rampage is better than it use to be, but it still has a ways to go until it can stand on its own.
4th Place NXT
NXT had another solid show. They mostly did a good job of setting up Deadline. It was a successful go home show. However, because it was a go-home show, it could only go so hard.
3rd Place Dynamite
Dynamite had good and bad, but it had too many lowlights to be rated any higher. Having such a glaring problem in one of the biggest stories hurts the show.
2nd Place Impact
Impact had an amazing championship match between "Speedball" Mike Bailey and Josh Alexander that went 50 minutes. However, aside from that, there wasn’t much to write home about.
1st Place SmackDown
I think SmackDown had the most complete show. There were story developments and title matches. It was a really good show.
Rob’s Winners of the Week
6. WWE Raw put forth another solid show this week, though not as strong as last week’s effort. It was highlighted by the effort from the Women’s Division.
5. AEW Rampage felt like it found its identity more this week with meaningful solid matches.
4. AEW Dynamite had the biggest highlight this week, but aside from that, it was just an okay show for AEW.
3. WWE SmackDown finally cooled off a little this week. It still had some great segments but mixed in some cold ones that make it hard to rate this show higher.
2. Put into a corner with very few stories built, NXT put together a great go-home show that made me excited to watch NXT Deadline.
1. Impact Wrestling put together another surprising card. They had a main event that went one hour and built entertaining stories for the X Division and Tag Team Division.