New blets are probably going to be inevitable

I haven’t watched much wrestling over the last weeks months years, but when I heard about the latest NXT Worlds Collide show, I made a point to carve out an evening to watch it.  After finding out that NXT UK was being folded in preparation for the coming of NXT Europe, I was kind of sad because I actually really grew to like NXT UK in its short lifespan.  Their show really felt grassroots, and the roster size led to quick and exciting stories, and when they started doing their own Takeover events, they were always full of real quality matches, with always at least one broadway on them.

The rise of Jordan Devlin, Walter vs. Dragunov, and Kay Lee Ray vs. Meiko Satomura were some of the best things about NXT UK.  Even their midcard guys like Noam Dar and A-Kid were starting to really shine, and for a while I’d have said that NXT UK was my favorite program within the entire company; granted it didn’t hurt that everything else had moved to cable tv and I didn’t watch it, but still.

Anyway, none of the matches ended in any real surprises; Ricochet wasn’t going to win and take an NXT blet away from the show, same with Nikki ASH and Doudrop.  Pretty Deadly unifying the tag titles was a little surprising, but if the UK scene needed to have anyone thrown a bone to it, it was obviously the tag team championships, because in spite of how much I was hoping Tyler Bate was going to win, it didn’t seem likely that any of the Americans were going to lose the respective men or women’s NXT championships, which is exactly what happened.

But the thing is, Worlds Collide kind of acted as something of a bookend to me as far as all the NXT UK and even the NXT blets are concerned.  Obviously, the UK blets all have to go since the brand is effectively dead now, but it also doesn’t mean that the existing blets in NXT also aren’t on the chopping block either.  Save for some coloration being added to the plates, all of the blet designs were carried over from “old” NXT, and the designs of the blets don’t match the Cosby sweater new logo of 2.0.

Of course when NXT Europe drops in 2023, it’s inevitable that they will get an array of their own titles, that I hope will look great so I can get them, but also hope that they don’t look great, so I won’t be tempted to get them because I haven’t really been chugging out surveys like I used to, so my blet monies have basically evaporated into nothingness now, and I wouldn’t really have the spare cash to get them.

But I also anticipate that NXT 2.0, within the next 12 months, will probably debut some redesigns of all their existing blets, because with the unifying of their UK counterparts, now seems like as good as any of a time for them to drop the old Hunter-era NXT logo’d blets, and debut some brand new, 2.0’d blets.  Especially since the WWEShop really has caught up to every single active blet being available, and they need something to drop to keep blet nerds like me wet.

I guess I should get back on the survey train and start trying to earn back up some more blet money, because I feel like we’re on the cusp of some new shit being available sooner rather than later.

The Inevitable Unveiling of the AEW Trios Championship

On the Dynamite before the one I got to see live, the AEW Tag Team championship changed hands in a pretty exciting triple threat match.  The Dynamite I got to see live was a relative clunker with no championships defended or any surprises of any sort.  So naturally, it would be the Dynamite after the one I got to see live, AEW debuts the Trios six-man championship that everyone and their mother knew was inevitably going to happen because it was probably in some contract at the inception of the promotion that there would one day have to be a title in which the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega could hold all together.

So no real surprises here, but obviously if there’s any blets involved, it piques my interest because I am a connoisseur of belts awarded to sweaty men for choreographed meat slapping.  Eventually, AEW would have to unveil some blets that I didn’t think were silly and/or looked crappy enough to warrant me to possibly want one for my collection, even if it meant inflating their general count of blets shown on AEW programming to 28 different blets but considering their roster is like 156 people, they kind of need them, even if they only have three hours of actual television programming to show any of them.

Anyway, the Trios Championship: yeah, not really that impressive, design-wise.  Better than Ring of Honor’s Six-Man Tag Championships, but only mostly because gold is nicer looking than silver.  Red Leather, the designer of all of AEW’s titles to my understanding, clearly has an aesthetic that harkens from the old NWA/WCW days, and there’s kind of this retro-feel to it that’s kind of cool, but at the same time, it’s basically a massive spooge pattern of swirls and embellishments that don’t really make much sense other than fluff and artificially ornate.

The font selection of World, Trios and Champion looks odd to me, and I think I would’ve went with a sans-serif font, but considering the pattern around the rest of the design, it kind of trapped them into using it.  Like, of all of AEW’s native blet designs, I still like the Tag Team ones the most, because it feels bold and modern, but between the All-Atlantic not-Intercontinental, the surprisingly quick redesign of the women’s and the Trios blets, I have a feeling that they’ll nix the only cool blet design in order to be more cohesive aesthetically across the board.

It’s hard to make out the side plates, but it kind of looks like a silhouette of the Young Bucks delivering their 69th superkick of a match.  Which means the silhouette in the middle is most definitely Kenny Omega, and it should be of absolutely zero surprise that the side plate design would be of the Bucks and Omega, considering these blets were basically created for them.  To some capacity, they’re basically a trio of Taz’s FTW blet during his ECW heyday, where he just introduced his own title and then it somehow made its way into the circulation.

Overall, the design of the blets isn’t horrible, but they’re also not awe-inspiring either.  They’re safe and vanilla, but definitely not something I see and think oh shit, I need to get that for the collection.  The pattern work will make them extremely hard for Pakistanis to counterfeit, and if AEW wants to actually manufacture and sell replicas, they’ll probably be way too much for what I’d be willing to spend, so all in all, I’d consider this another flop in the blet portfolio of AEW, destined to become lost in the shuffle, and once it’s not being held by a member of the Elite, relegated to being defended on Dark: Elevation.

However, until that happens, there are bound to be some really fun matches to be had while this is in its honeymoon phase.  Inevitably, Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks will be Trios champs, and they will collide with Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish, and that match will undoubtedly be a fun one.  Death Triangle and the House of Black will also make for some top tier trios, but once the honeymoon phase is over, it’ll be some rando mish-mashes of singles guys trading the blets around like 1999 WCW all over again.

Liv Morgan and what I still enjoy about wrestling

For the first time in my life, I went to an Impact! Wrestling show, as they had dates in Atlanta, and were also taping out of Center Stage, which is a fantastic venue to watch wrestling, and has a lot of history within the industry.  The tickets were cheap, and I was able to get seats basically three rows behind the ring, so it was a no-brainer to go see what is basically the #3 promotion in America.

And it was a pretty decent show, all things considered.  I got to see a lot of guys I’d mostly just heard of or seen just clips of, like Josh Alexander, Mike “Speedball” Bailey, Chris Bey and Ace Austin, and there was no shortage of names that I already knew from their days in old TNA or former WWE talents, like the Motor City Machine Guns, Mike Bennett, Eric Young, the Good Brothers and Mickie James.  Despite the general lack of respect Impact! gets, the promotion has a degree of polish that is missing from a lot of the lesser-known indy shows I’d been getting into over the last few years, and when the night was over, I was very pleased with my evening and money well spent.

I came home that evening and remembered that the WWE had a, well, pay-per-view event the same night, and considering the ease of being able to watch a replay on Peacock, I figured I’d try and watch at least the Money in the Bank ladder matches, while I still had no idea who won them yet, and before the internet would spoil the fuck out of them if I went on any social media channel.

Despite the feeling that I had a prediction that she would win, like my old Wrestling Oracle™ days, I was still very pleased to see that Liv Morgan won the women’s ladder match.  Admittedly, I bought into the Liv Morgan story of the diminutive underdog who has persevered throughout the years, and in spite of the support of the fans, just couldn’t quite reach the top of the mountain.  And by virtue of winning the Money in the Bank briefcase, Morgan was basically a shoo-in to eventually become a women’s champion, as the women’s short history of the briefcase has yet to have a single failure.

A little surprising to me, was the fact that WWE Creative didn’t wait long with Liv, and had her cashing in immediately, the same night.  I say I was surprised, because just the way Morgan had been established, I didn’t think there would be any real hope for her to have any chance of beating either Bianca Belair or Ronda Rousey, seeing as how she’s undersized and overwhelmingly out-powered by both of them.  But I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, seeing as how women’s MITB winners have held the contract collectively maybe a total of like, three days over the last four winners.  And despite my skepticism of how Liv Morgan would topple either champion, I was still very pleased and happy to see her pin Ronda Rousey and become the new Smackdown Women’s champion.

And thinking about this moment, and some other isolated moments within the last year, made me come to the realization of why I still enjoy watching wrestling, even though it probably seems like I have an endless amount of criticism and complaining to do about the business: I really enjoy seeing when wrestlers I respect, and have admiration for their work ethic, actually succeed and get the hard-earned spotlight.

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Let’s talk about AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door

In spite of the seemingly endless parade of criticism I have for AEW, I was very interested in Forbidden Door, the alleged AEW x NJPW collaborative super show.  Obviously, I use the terminology alleged, because I feel like anyone with a pair of eyes probably might’ve been able to see that it was and was going to be a basically AEW show, featuring some guys who happen to wrestle for New Japan.

And when the dust settled and the show was over, I didn’t have to wait twenty seconds before I exclaimed to my group chat of bros I was watching with, that the show was fairly beneath the perceived expectations, and that this was entirely an AEW show, with some NJPW loaned out to the card.

I mean, the show itself wasn’t terrible.  It was an entertaining show with some good matches, some great performances, and had a lot of things that I was happy to see, like FTR continuing to collect tag titles, winning the IWGP heavyweight tag titles to add to their collection of ROH and AAA, and the return of Cesaro Claudio, which makes me happy as a fan to see a guy I’ve long admired, get back in the ring and shine.  Pac winning the not-intercontinental All-Atlantic championship was something I had predicted and I always like being right, and on that note I also basically predicted to a tee, the very ending to the fatal four-way between Jay White, Kazuchika Okada, Adam Cole and Hangman Adam Page.

But from what this show was billed as, built up to be, and what it should have been on paper, Forbidden Door fell way, way, way short of the expectations of everything the fans wanted to see when this ball got rolling.  Sure, there were a fuckton of injuries to AEW’s roster leading up to it, and drama with NJPW involving Kota Ibushi, so there were many notable names that couldn’t even be on the show.  But AEW still has a roster of 4,000 guys, and sometimes all you have to do is put some talented guys together and storyline be damned, let some motherfuckers work.

No Kenny Omega, no Kota Ibushi.  The Young Bucks were smooshed into a multi-man match, and Will Osperay was given Orange Cassidy.  And as much as I’m happy that Claudio is back to work, AEW had no shortage of guys who might’ve been able to step up to Zack Sabre, Jr. but they stuck to existing storylines and kept a lot of the roster tied up to where the only option they really did have was to bring in Claudio, which is also perplexing.

And not to dig up some old dirt, but I couldn’t help but notice that TNT champion Scorpio Sky and TBS champion Jade Cargill were absent from the entire event.  Also Keith Lee, Swerve and Max Caster were all pre-show matches, meaning the entire primary event was completely devoid of black talent.  I mean, I got a lot of enjoyment watching the shitshow grave digging Tony Khan did to himself when Big Swole accused him of being a racist, but you see shit like this, and I can’t help but think that lil’ TK might want to implement a DE&I department on his team or something.

Furthermore, of all the names that were on the entire card, like two Japanese guys actually got any sort of positive rub, the whole night.  Hiroshi Goto got the pin in the first dark match of the night, Shingo Takagi got to in El Phantasmo, but pretty much all the Japanese guys were jobbing all night long.  This isn’t to say that all NJPW guys were losing, but the only ones to get any notable victories were the very white Jay White and Will Osperay.  I’m just sayin’

But the biggest ding on the show in my opinion was that after the main event was over, and Jon Moxley was crowned (the bullshit interim) AEW champion, instead of there being some sort of positive send off, respect between the two companies, the show comes to a close with Chris Jericho’s stable hitting the ring to attack Moxley and Tanahashi, before Moxley’s stable hits the ring and brawl back, and the announcers are literally talking up the next episode of Dynamite on TBS not TNT.

Immediately I have flashbacks to WCW Sin in like 2000 when the company was so in the shitter at the time, that they were using their PPV to try and hype up the following night’s Monday Nitro, and thinking just how sad and pathetic it was.  Either AEW is already hitting that point in their promotion’s lifetime, or they’re really that disrespectful of NJPW to be disregarding everything they’ve pitched into the show to already be looking ahead to their own promotion’s future television.

But anyway, I’d give the show a solid 6/10.  There were a lot of positives to have come out of the entire night, but I think many wrestling fans would agree that if things were just a little bit different with roster health, no territorial restrictions and less internal drama, Forbidden Door really could’ve had the potential to be a mega show that could change the course of the industry.  Instead, we were all left with just a show, that was okay, but not even close to scratching the potential of what could’ve been.

Dad Brog (#089): Father’s Day, for the rest of my life

#1 of until the end of my time

A while ago, mythical wife asked what I wanted for Father’s Day.  Usually whenever anyone asks me what I want for my birthday, Christmas, or now that I’m eligible, Father’s Day, I have no idea.  I don’t have a want for things except wrestling blets, and understandably nobody(ies) want to drop $300+ on effectively useless straps of fake leather and metal plates.

However, this year, I had an answer pretty quickly, because I have been thinking of it for a while.  And the best part is that it doesn’t cost a thing, but will still have unlimited value and meaning for me for the rest of my life.

What I wanted for Father’s Day this year, and every single year for the rest of my life, is a photo with my daughters, holding their tag team championship blets.  That’s it.  There’s nothing else I’ll ever need or want more than this every Father’s Day, than this request.

I figure there would be no better opportunity for me to pull this card than Father’s Day, as the my girls grow and get older and intelligent, and inevitably think my blet collection is lame and stupid.  But being Father’s Day, they’ll have to acquiesce to this small and simple request, and I’ll have them right where I want them, next to dad for a yearly photo.

I love time-lapse photography, and what I’m hoping is to one day have an impressively long photo album, built a year at a time, of myself with my daughters as they grow, blossom into the beauties their mom’s genes have set them on the course for, and watch the changing of expressions as they may be excited and exuberant as kids, begrudging and embarrassed as teenagers, but then come around and be happy and accepting of tradition as young adults and maybe one day mature women and maybe mothers in their own right.

Either way, this photo makes me happy, and I’m hoping that this will be the first of many, many years of similar photos, of forcing my children to participate in their lame dad’s hobby.

The AEW All-Atlantic Championship hurts my brain

As if AEW needed any more blets to clog up their roster of 189 men and women, they went ahead and introduced a new, not-an-intercontinental championship, called the AEW All-Atlantic Championship.  It’s first title holder will be crowned at the AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door show later in the month, by virtue of a tournament, which I’m sure will be decent, but Tony Khan just can’t stop dipping his fingers into the cake to make everything so convoluted.

The best part about the whole tournament is the fact that of all eight of the guys in it, only two of them, maybe four if you consider Mexico and the Netherlands as actual Atlantic-facing countries, with Rusev Miro, Buddy Murphy Matthews, and two TBD NJPW all coming from the very Atlantic Bulgaria, Australia and most likely Japan.

Interestingly, there are no Americans in this tournament, which is probably Tony Khan’s insistence, to really drive home the fact that this isn’t an intercontinental championship, as if there were something actually wrong with it, considering the IC champs in both WWE and NJPW are usually the best workers of the respective companies. 

But make no mistake, this is very much the AEW equivalent of an intercontinental championship, and it’s fitting that it showed up after Cody Rhodes left the company, because he was always so adamant that there would be no such things as “mid-card” titles in AEW, because they were all important, from the bullshit non-sanctioned FTW championship, and all of the Impact, ROH, IWGP and NWA titles that have gotten screen time on AEW programming.

And it will be vied for by mid-card talents, since the actual AEW World championship is really reserved for those willing to play ball with the Elite, which has remained a very tight-knit circle since the inception of the entire promotion.

As for the design of the blet itself, seeing as how I am an aficionado of professional wrestling blets, it’s pretty mediocre, at best.  The plates are too tall, and anyone who knows anything about blets knows that vertical plates are typically frowned upon, because it makes the blets very difficult to wear, most notably the old ROH Television championship being the prime example; the height of the center plate dug into the abdomen as well as the crotch of anyone who tried to wear it and do any sort of bending at the waist.

I’m very perplexed by the incorporation of the Chinese and Japanese flags, as they are so very much Pacific countries, and what they’re doing on a blet claiming to be All-Atlantic.  And then there’s not one, but two lions from the UK’s royal coat of arms, which is again confusing considering the true crest features one lion and one horse.

The font of “All-Atlantic Championship” is the exact same one used in the old WWE US championship, adding to the irony of how this isn’t supposed to be an intercontinental championship, considering the US championship basically was WCW’s equivalent to the IC title too.  The font selection is also funny, because the V2 of AEW’s Women’s championship used the same font as every IWGP championship blet, adding more fuel to AEW’s blet creator’s lack of imagination.

And speaking of the AEW Women’s championship, it’s hard to not notice that the All-Atlantic is kind of a larger scale of it, primarily because of the large four circles at the corners of the center plate, as well as the overly tall plates in general.  Granted, it’s a large improvement over the original Women’s championship, but now it’s starting to look like AEW’s blet maker has created a template in which all future AEW blets will be based on, so when they inevitably introduced the Trios championship they keep churning the rumor mill about, I’m sure it’ll be a derivative of these two.

Overall, everything about AEW’s All-Atlantic championship is about as sloppy and poorly thought out as much of the promotion’s general booking.  It’s kind of a perfect metaphor for the promotion itself; kind of borrowing a lot from rivals and predecessors while trying too hard to be unique but making a lot of embarrassing mistakes in the process.  But the blet is shiny and new, and much like Chris Jericho once said about Ultimate Warrior promos, it (looks) cool, so… yaaaayy will be the general feedback from casual fans and AEW diehards.

As for predicting the title’s first holder, of the eight men vying for it, I think it’s ultimately Neville Pac’s to lose, and he’ll defeat one of the mystery NJPW guys for it.  Although it would tickle me pink if an actual Japanese guy from NJPW were the first guy to hold a new AEW championship, and it’s not an outlandish outcome, considering the working relationship between the promotions, it would be a good time for AEW to scratch NJPW’s back for a change and let them walk off with one of their blets, considering how strong NJPW has been booking AEW talents over the years.  But it would be funny if a Japanese guy were to be the first holder of an All-Atlantic blet.

Frankly though, I feel like there is a possibility that MJF is walking out with the All-Atlantic.  As murky as they’re trying to make the waters with MJF’s nuclear promos, I still think it’s a work, and somehow and some way, MJF is walking out of Forbidden Door with a championship.  He’ll be “fired” by AEW for his recent worked shoot conduct, and then immediately “hired” by NJPW and enters the All-Atlantic tournament under their banner, and does his usual schtick of using the Dynamite Diamond ring to cheat to win the All-Atlantic blet, where he can rub it in AEW’s face for being the first holder of it.  He also strikes me as a guy who was probably fan of all the intercontinental champions of history, and would love nothing more than to build his own legacy with AEW’s own intercontinental blet.

Not a bad place to start while he bides time for his contract to end so that he can go be a jobber in New York.

AEW and the importance of storytelling

Despite the fact that I probably come off as someone who hates AEW and and think WWE can do no wrong based on how much criticism I have for AEW, I don’t hate them at all.  It’s just that they do so much weird shit that makes me scratch my head, and if there’s anything at all about the promotion that I really don’t like, it would probably be Tony Khan, because he just comes off as this privileged mark with money and means to have created his own toy promotion, and is running it wackily but under the guise that it’s for the fans, and unfortunately a lot of people have gotten drunk off the Kool-aid.

In all fairness, I think WWE is pretty putrid these days, and I’m kind of the living embodiment of the popular meme that nobody hates professional wrestling more than professional wrestling fans, based on how it really does seem like I have nothing good to say.  However, I am willing to post about the shit that I do like, it’s just that there’s not a whole lot of it these days, unfortunately.

Anyway, mostly through scuttlebutt, I’ve been casually following AEW’s progress through the year, and aside from purchasing Ring of Honor, they are making some impactful moves and making a lot of noise in the industry.  The AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door show they’re going to have is going to be a pretty major deal for better or worse, and despite the fact that I will probably not see it seeing as how I have zero intentions of actually paying to watch a pay-per view anymore, I’ll still be very interested to see how the show shakes out.

The thing is though, as much as the internet seems to think it’s going to be the biggest show since the last Wrestlemania where they made up numbers to make it sound like the largest in history, there’s a ceiling to just how good Forbidden Door is going to be.  It’s going to be the same ceiling that hindered Double or Nothing, or pretty much any other AEW show since its inception: the sheer lack of comprehensive storytelling throughout the promotion.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t any storytelling at all, but rather it’s the fact that AEW doesn’t have much quality storytelling, save for a few exceptions where it’s clear that all available attribute points are put into a single arc; usually ones involving Kenny Omega or the Young Bucks, exhibiting nepotism at its most flagrant, seeing as how they’re still VPs of the company, no matter how much power Tony Khan has allegedly stripped them of.

Matt Hardy once was on record talking about how AEW doesn’t have any writers, and that much is very obvious considering how paper thin and lacking in any substance the vast majority of the promotion’s storylines end up being.  But it also verifies the weakness and validates the importance of quality storyline, because week after week, a promotion can’t slap together these repeatedly inane 5- or 6-man team matches full of big names in an attempt to give as many members of their horrifically bloated roster tv time, and actually expect anyone to care when there’s no story behind it.

Like CM Punk just won the AEW World championship from Hangman Adam Page.  How did that storyline materialize?  Punk got out of his feud with MJF and then one week after a match, he pantomimes he wants a belt.  Next thing you know he has a few face-to-face confrontations with Page, and a match is suddenly booked.  Seed planted, match had, title swapped, in less than three months.  Despite the rise of Hangman being one of the more interesting stories to have happened to the promotion, Tony Khan didn’t know what the fuck to do with him after he had reached the top of the mountain.  And unfortunately for Hangman, it’s his ass who has to do the job because of their lack of writing ability.

Taz’s son Hook, is a perfect example of the perils of not having writers, because here’s a guy that fans latched onto like gangbusters when he finally debuted, but instead of having him actually grow and make any progress in his character, or give him any meaningful storylines to embark on, AEW has paired him up with fucking Danhausen, whom I just don’t really see the appeal in because I’m old, but you’ve got this young silent killer paired up with basically a circus clown of a character, and somewhere it’s expected that Hook will actually grow from this?

To the fairness of AEW, they have demonstrated a legendary ability to open; talent debuts, seeds for stories, general ideas.  But that’s about all they can do, is start page 1.  I imagine Tony Khan is the kind of guy who has a folder on his desktop with like, at any given time, no less than 58 Untitled-1 (##) with ideas for storylines and bookings, but aren’t more than a paragraph.  But instead of actually hashing them out and trying to formulate some quality storylines out of them, he passes them onto the talent, tells them to start them up, and then wing it from there.  Last time I checked, professional wrestling and improv aren’t always mutually exclusive, but they also aren’t things that just anyone can do without experience.

Keith Lee and Swerve Strickland are good examples of guys who came in to a lot of buzz and impact for two seconds, but then absolutely jack shit was done with them since their debuts.  Worse off, they’re now paired as a tag team because the roster is so bloated, and now neither will really have any room to develop as singles guys.  Toni Storm and Ruby Soho are also good examples of acquisitions who came in to big pops, but are just treading water.

The bottom line is that AEW’s lack of storytelling is always going to be a hinderance, and isn’t helped by the sheer volume of the roster that needs some creative direction.  But good storytelling is capable of making diamonds out of one guy, or fifty guys, if it’s done well.  But seeing as how AEW has no writers, and the whole show seems to hinge on Tony Khan’s visions, the promotion will always have a ceiling that they’ll struggle to crack through, if they want to have any chance in the future of actually sustaining themselves in the battle to combat the WWE.