In this episode of Wrestling Night in America, PWTorch columnist Greg Parks breaks down both nights of WrestleMania with callers and emailers. Topics include the quality of the Firefly Funhouse match, the decision to put Charlotte over Rhea Ripley, the potential of wrestlers getting more creative freedom in the current environment, and more.
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Undisputed Era Kick Off The Show, Velveteen Mind games – HIT: I like how this segment played out. Even though three of the four members of Undisputed Era have lost their gold, they still looked like a unified faction. Cole cut a great promo that gave that vibe, and they stood behind Roddy when Velveteen Dream took control of the Audio/Visual panel backstage and took over the lights and audio in the arena.
Lio Rush vs. Jordan Devlin for the NXT Cruiserweight Championship – ½ HIT: On PWT Talks NXT, part of the PW Torch Dailycast’s lineup of podcasts, we had a feeling we would see this match in the first wrestling segment of the night. It’s an important match in the landscape of the story, giving the start to the show an important feel. Besides, when that match also features two talents like Rush and Devlin, you’d assume the chances of a dud opening match is minimal. I say assume, because surprisingly it took me two commercial breaks before I actually got into it. The first commercial happened about 30 seconds into the match in the picture-in-picture format. The match was largely mat-based wrestling and slowly paced through the commercial. I expected the pace to pick up after returning to the show proper. But it never really happened. If they had 6 speeds to choose from, I don’t think they reached 3rd. Minutes later a second commercial break, this time without the picture-in-picture, overtook the action again. Finally, after coming back from this break they kicked it into gear and put on the performance I was expecting to see out of these two.
Raquelle Explains It All – ½ HIT: The former Reina and Dakota Kai were being interviewed by somebody who isn’t Cathy Kelly back stage. I don’t even remember what she said, to be honest. It sounded so rehearsed and phony that’s all I could think about. William Regal appeared out of nowhere and told Kai and Raquelle Gonzales that in two weeks Kai will face Nox in a steel cage to keep out any unwanted interference by Raquelle. Largely, I thought the segment was “meh” due to Raquelle’s poor acting. But at least we got an explanation out of her. And we get a Nox/Kai Cage match to look forward to!
Austin Theory, Wrong Place, Wrong Time – MISS: Austin Theory made his way to the ring and I was looking forward to seeing him in action when Ciampa came storming to the ring. He grabbed a mic and cut a promo saying that he was so focused on getting “Goldie” back that he forgot to look at his surroundings. That’s how Gargano was able to get to him. Theory went to attack, and Ciampa took him out easily. Ciampa finished his promo and then left the ring. Theory attacked from behind but Ciampa once again easily overtook him and then just pummeled him outside the ring. Why? Why did Theory have to be involved in this angle? Unless they are looking to build a Theory vs. Ciampa side feud, which I can’t picture happening, I don’t understand why they had to have Theory needlessly get manhandled. It looked cool, sure. But Theory is still new to the audience and he’s been booked relatively strong from what I can remember. Maybe book a local talent for that spot? Or one of the rookies in the Performance Center to bump around, perhaps? I feel like they could have Ciampa get his point across in a better way that would have been just as, or more effective, without sacrificing Austin Theory.
Raul Mendoza & Joaquin Wilde vs. Grizzled Young Veterans (James Drake & Zach Gibson)- HIT:The NXT Tag scene has been lacking recently, so I’m glad to see Mendoza and Wilde debut tonight as a potential new duo. Neither man was doing much on TV, though I know they have been working house shows and dark matches. Why not add to the Tag Team roster depth and try something new.
It was about 3 minutes into this match when I had a realization. This was the first time tonight that I was really enjoying the show! With the exception of the opening Undisputed Era segment and the last few minutes of Lio Rush vs Jordan Devlin, the rest of the show had been relatively dull or oddly booked. I was astonished that realization came as we were already 55 minutes into the show. Wilde and Mendoza impressed me throughout this relatively short match and getting to see Gibson and Drake is always a treat.
Broserweights (Pete Dunne & Matt Riddle) vs. Oney Lorcan & Danny Birch – HIT : Before the match started, the Broserweights celebrated in the ring with the crowd after their NXT Tag Title win this past weekend. They did not enter with the Dusty Cup, and Riddle explained that the trophy had partied a little too hard after the Portland victory and failed the wellness policy. I chuckled, but I didn’t think this was quite as funny as previous segments. I’m hoping the Broserweights haven’t run their course already. The match itself was a solid tag team bout, though I do question having a team like Birch and Lorcan go toe to toe with the newly crowned Tag Champs for such a long time. Now, personally I’m not complaining. I am huge fans of all four of these guys and it’s been awhile since we’ve seen Birch and Lorcan in action, so I was happy to see them. But they’ve never been billed as a credible team, always enhancement guys. I would have expected to see the tag champs easily dominate a team like that. But instead it was a back and forth, athletic match. I may have questioned the booking, but where I haven’t been wowed with most of the show tonight, I appreciated every minute of this match.
Kona Reeves Basks in Lee’s Glory – HIT: In a match that lasted about 20 seconds, Lee put Reeves in his place after he interrupted Lee who was about to cut a promo after his entrance. Dijakovic came out of nowhere and uttered a plethora of excuses as to why he lost. Lee told him that is he can talk Regal into is, he is totally on board with “Fighting Forever” with Dijakovic. A short and sweet segment that showcased one of NXT’s fastest rising stars, Keith Lee, and is continued the Lee/Dijakovic saga. I’m a little torn here. On one hand, I really enjoy watching Lee and Dijakovic work. On the other, they’ve been put together so often that I’m starting to wonder if Dijakovic is the Sami Zayn to Keith Lee’s Kevin Owens. I’ll be optimistic and say I’ll judge it when we see a bit more.
Kayden Karter vs. Chelsea Green – HIT: Ever since Karter picked up her first NXT win over Green a few weeks ago, we’ve heard Robert Stone say he was going to be re-launching his brand and that Chelsea Green would seek retribution on Karter. I’ve been kind of looking forward to this match to see where this odd angle goes. I was enjoying the match when all of a sudden Bianca Belair stepped in the ring and Kanye’d the spotlight by saying “I’mma let you finish…” and then cut a promo on Charlotte. I absolutely loved this. Took me by surprise, had an essence of humor and was a straight to the point promo. After she stopped speaking, Karter and Green continued their match and Green got her win back in no time.
Velveteen Dream vs. Roderick Strong – HIT : The Velveteen Dream returned to action, rekindling the feud with Roderick Strong from before his injury. I’ve been a little confused with this angle where Dream is making threatening comments towards Roddy’s family. Dream is coming off heelish where Roderick is gaining sympathy from the audience for having his family messed with. Regardless, I’m enjoying it, just confused. I liked the beginning to the match where the two spent the first handful of minutes circling the ring and one another before touching. Old school, methodical heat-building. I enjoyed the match itself. It wasn’t a five-star classic but it was a nice re-introduction to Dream, especially seeing him get the win. Of course, his win was short-lived as he was swiftly taken down by all the members of Undisputed Era as the show went off the air. I’m invested in this feud, even if it has been a little confusing so far and I’m looking forward to see where this story leads us.