FANN’S TAKE: New Year, New Challenges – Big E’s loss, Breaker and Hayes victories, NXT cutbacks, Shibata goes into business for himself, Walter’s abs, more

By Rich Fann, PWTorch columnist

PHOTO CREDIT: WWE

SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

Welcome to the first Fann’s Take of 2022. I’m looking forward to getting into more of a groove with these on the free side of the house, in addition to my podcasting and newsletter column duties. There’s a good bit of meat on the bone for the first few days of the new year so let’s get started!

Big E Day 1: Not only does Big E lose the title, but the former WWE Champ gets thrown outside of the contenders’ circle – with Bobby Lashley and Brock Lesnar up next. With the announcement that Roman would be appearing on this past Friday’s SmackDown, it gets a bit frustrating the company most associated with “wait and see” couldn’t wait and see before jumping the gun on a WWE Title change. Was Day 1 such a “premium live event” such that a four-way matchup for the title wouldn’t suffice a delay in seeing Roman-Brock end with shenanigans?

Sadly, there were a number of firings as well within WWE as well on the NXT side, with the releases of the following people as of writing this:

  • Gabe Sapolsky
  • William Regal
  • Tim Thatcher
  • Danny Burch
  • Scott Armstrong
  • Road Dogg BG James
  • Dave Kapoor
  • Ryan Katz
  • Allison Danger

Each of the releases are a head shake, but when you have the longevity and track record of a William Regal it boggles the mind there’s no room for someone like that in a wrestling company. That is, until you realize this is more a cull of the Triple H crew that have to, for no fault of their own, pay for the sins of not taking out another territory like Vince McMahon would’ve in the day. With the holidays barely in the rear view mirror, I hope all land on their feet and are better for this.

AEW on TBS Title Matches: Wednesday’s Dynamite on TBS featured a tremendous Bryan Danielson vs. “Hangman” Adam Page match. Seriously, go watch that match now if you haven’t seen it. I liked it as much as their first affair, but the addition of Danielson’s fully veganated blood to the equation, coupled with the fantastic finish, put this slightly ahead. However, TBS would be treated on its debut hosting Dynamite with two other title matches: a solid coronation of Jade Cargill as the first TBS champ, and the Jurassic Express as tag champs.

In both, families were shown ringside, but with Jade’s child being shown pre-match, I spent a good bit of the match hoping we weren’t going to be treated to a sad little one as their mom lost in the middle of the ring. In the case of Jungle Boy’s family, showing them with the thrill of his victory was coupled sadly with the agony of the injury to Rey Fenix.

Walter + Abs = Problems: I joked this week that Walter having abs in January meant we’re all in trouble. This tweet confirmed my worry.

Walter having his last NXT UK match and (potentially) coming to the U.S. is bad news for anyone whose chest is averse to being turned into hamburger in NXT or the WWE main roster.

I see this going two ways – Walter becomes the heavyweight monster he’d been on the indies, or Vince gets tired of him early and drops him, which leaves Walter for New Japan, MLW, GCW, Terminus, AEW, or any promotion smart enough to know that if you have an available Walter, you use him.

New Japan Mayhem: New Japan had to handle the amazingly wild situation of recently returned Katsuyori Shibata going into business for himself and declaring his return match a regular match, instead of the specific catch rules outlined prior to the show. New Japan president Takami Ohbari, however, was happy to declare that “The Wrestler” would be punishment free:

While it was cool to see Shibata back, his first match back violating the rules and precautions and saying “I’ll take the punishment” was a wild way to open the 2022 wrestling account. Credit to Ohbari for being as magnanimous as he was on Twitter, but at some point I’d hope the NJPW USA head trainer gets parameters that are irrefutable and are held to them.

Seriously, no more headbutts my guy.

NXT Title Matches: Bron Breakker and Carmelo Hayes were big winners last Tuesday, with Bron picking up the NXT Title and Hayes the WWE Cruiserweight Title in addition to the North American title. With Hayes’s win, the Cruiserweight Title is now retired, after five years of re-use. Looking back prior to retirement, this run of the Cruiserweight Title had been for the most part successful: smaller wrestlers were given the time to shine, particularly in NXT. Carmelo and Trick Williams are a great tandem and going forward I look forward to seeing Melo “not miss” his opportunities to show he’s one of the best young talents in WWE.

On Bron’s side of the ledger, with his win as NXT champion, at this point I feel like we’re all screaming at the tv/tablet/phone “just call him Steiner already!” From the finishing sequence of the bulldog and the Steiner Recliner, to his dad Rick being out to celebrate him after the match, or the references to Steiner math and being a dog-faced gremlin, it’s clear he’s family. Bron Steiner may be relatively new to wrestling, but in less than 20 matches he’s proven a solidity in the ring that belies his inexperience. In a perfect world, Bron would have a few months to get ready for main roster, wrestling the likes of Roderick Strong, Walter, Matt Riddle and whomever else are solid main roster “drop downs” to help in his growth. I presume that the reality will be Bron being up by the Royal Rumble and perhaps having a Gable Steveson showdown enroute to feuding with Lashley or Seth Rollins.

“Well well well, how the turn tables…” – Michael Scott

And to close off this first piece of 2022, a moment to ponder courtesy my man Benno:

Here’s to a hopefully less stressful ‘22. As always, feel free to follow up on twitter (@Rich_Fann) or via email – everythingwithrich@gmail.com.

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