If you’re a wrestling fan, chances are you watched NXT TakeOver and/or the WWE Royal Rumble this weekend. It’s the second best weekend of wrestling behind WrestleMania, and it did not disappoint. Let’s recap all the fun and important things that happened.
TakeOver was Saturday night and featured a five match card.
Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly retained the NXT tag belts over the Authors of Pain. This match featured a lot of leg work and submission holds, which was to be expected if the champs were going to beat their monstrous challengers. The roll up win was a little underwhelming, and the Authors didn’t have the same chemistry in this match that they had with Revival or DIY.
The Velveteen Dream continues to be the best. Earlier in the night Velveteen Dream accepted the Rivalry of the Year award for his great feud with Aleister Black. He also guaranteed a 30 second KO of the knockout artist Kassius Ohno later in the night. Dream came to the ring in boxing trunks and wore a mouth guard, because he understands the little things about his character so well. While he didn’t knock Ohno out, he did pick up his first victory at a TakeOver event. We also got to see his beautiful finisher:
— TDE Wrestling (@totaldivaseps) January 28, 2018
I’m assuming Aleister Black is next in line for an NXT title shot, but Dream should not be far behind.
Shayna Baszler is the truth. She didn’t defeat Ember Moon for the women’s title, but she made quite an impact. I loved the character work in this match. Ember is so easy to root for and sells so well. Shayna is a bully with a legit fighting background who can break you in two. If this was an MMA match, Shayna would have won. It was a pro wrestling match though, and while Shayna dominated and seemingly had Ember finished, Ember used her knowledge to eek out a win. Shayna is skilled enough to beat most wrestlers even though she’s inexperienced, but Ember has been doing this for a long time. After she was unable to escape the submission, she was able to shift her weight and cover Shayna for the three count. Once Shayna’s ring awareness catches up with her fighting skills, she’s going to be a force.
Aleister Black should be the next number one contender. Black took on Adam Cole in an Extreme Rules match with some creative spots. As expected, Cole’s stable mates Fish & O’Reilly interfered in the match but were ran off by Sanity. Black and Cole brutalized each other with Black eventually coming out on top and staying undefeated. He should be the favorite to challenge whoever is holding the NXT title during WrestleMania weekend.
Andrade Almas & Johnny Gargano had one of the best matches in NXT history. It’s easy to say something like that when the match is so fresh in your mind, but it’s the truth. This was the third match between the two, and they delivered on the highest possible level. The match featured a ton of counters and reversals since these two are so familiar with each other. Almas is turning into the best in ring performer champion NXT has had since Balor, and Gargano continues to get better. I’m glad NXT made the call for Ciampa to attack Gargano post match, because that match deserved a clean ending. We were also formally introduced to Candice LeRae, Gargano’s real life wife. After Zelina Vega continued to insert herself into the match, LeRae hopped the barrier and beat her down. Almas was still able to retain in an instant classic.
Tommaso Ciampa is back! Gargano’s former friend tag team partner showed up briefly as TakeOver was going off the air. He’s still sporting a huge knee brace from his injury last May, so it makes sense that he didn’t do anything too physical. He did wallop Gargano with a crutch though, throwing salt in the wounds of Gargano after his hard fought loss. As long as Ciampa is medically cleared, these two should steal the show at TakeOver WrestleMania weekend.
Friendly faces in the crowd at TakeOver included EC3, Ricochet & War Machine.
WWE Royal Rumble
The rumble was last night and featured six matches, including the men’s and women’s rumbles.
Let’s start with the not so good. AJ Styles retained the WWE championship over Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. The Usos retained the tag titles over Gable & Benjamin. The Bar defeated Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan for the Raw tag titles. Neither of the three matches were bad, but they certainly weren’t exciting. The best match was probably the Raw tag titles bout, but they put it right after the men’s rumble. The crowd was exhausted and didn’t wake back up until Strowman and Lesnar started beating the crap out of each other. I’m glad The Bar won back the belts, because now Rollins and Jason Jordan can really start hating each other.
Styles/Owens/Zayn was disappointing, especially since the build involved so much of Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan. To have the match end with a roll up after 16 minutes of boring wrestling was severely disappointing. I don’t know how you have those three in match and make it lame, but WWE pulled it off.
I predicted the Smackdown tag title match to be the match of the night. Let’s just say I was very wrong. The first fall was a ton of fun with the Usos gaining the 1-0 advantage. Instead of giving us another 10-15 minutes of tag team wrestling, the Usos won the second fall with a roll up and the match was over. It’s a cardinal sin to waste a Chad Gable tag match on a major pay per view.
Brock Lesnar pinned Kane to retain the Universal championship. Everyone knew that result was happening, but the match was still a blast. Lesnar and Strowman apparently didn’t the ‘this is fake’ memo and legitimately beat the shit of each other. Here’s an example:
BROCK! ☠️ pic.twitter.com/9e5jk8GzZr
— TDE Wrestling (@totaldivaseps) January 29, 2018
This match had an incredibly frenetic pace thanks to the urgency between Lesnar and Strowman. At 11 minutes it was also the perfect length with zero dead or rest time. I would have loved for Strowman to pin Kane and then have Brock challenge him for the title at Mania, but this was still excellent.
Men & Women’s Rumble
The men’s rumble match was the best one since 2010 or 2011. The last six have not been great, and the crowds have consistently booed the winners. Last night’s match was a ton of fun and featured some great performances AND a fresh, worthy winner. The match started off with Finn Balor and Rusev, who was massively over with the Philly crowd. Both guys had great showings, with Rusev lasting 30:27 and Balor lasting almost 58 minutes. In less than excellent news, my friends and I did a rumble pool and I picked numbers 3, 19 and 29. For those who didn’t watch, that means I picked Rhino, Matt Hardy and Goldust.
The best surprise entrants were Andrade Almas, The Hurricane & Rey Mysterio. Almas had a hell of a weekend, and capped it off by lasting almost 30 minutes in the rumble. The Hurricane was a fun surprise, even if he only lasted 24 seconds. Mysterio was the biggest surprise of the night, and somehow is in the best shape of his career at 43. Kofi Kingston had one of his best Rumble saves with the help of his New Day mates and a plate of pancakes.
It wasn’t a particularly heavy elimination year, as Balor and Reigns lead the charge with 4 each. The main story was who was going to win, and this was one of the more intense final 5 minutes in rumble history. The final four were Balor, Nakamura, Cena and Reigns. It was a fantastic dynamic, as the crowd loved everything Balor and Nak did while shitting on everything Cena and Reigns did. Nak and Reigns were the final two, which was a genius move by the WWE. Nobody in that building wanted Reigns to win, so even if you don’t like Nak, you were rooting for him by default. Nak was able to overcome the Big Dog with an impressive 44:25 rumble time. If all goes right, Nakamura and AJ Styles will be fighting for the WWE title at WrestleMania.
The women’s rumble went exactly as it should have. I thought the women exceeded expectations in their first ever rumble. There are so many moving pieces in a rumble match that it’s easy to get thrown off, but the match had a great flow to it. It was also a perfect mix of current stars, NXT up and comers and former wrestlers. Similar to Finn Balor in the men’s match, Sasha Banks needed a statement making performance. With 4 eliminations and a 54:46 ring time, consider that statement made. She even tossed out Bayley late in the match, which could reignite one of the best rivalries in NXT history. Ember Moon & Kairi Sane were cool additions, and we got to see a few top rope elbow drops from the pirate princess.
As for old school entrants, my personal favorites were Lita and Trish. Vickie Guerrero was a cool surprise and we got to see some great stare downs. Beth Phoenix/Nia Jax was a great moment, and Trish and Mickie James firing it up one last time was awesome. The match belonged to Asuka though, and I’m so happy that the right person won the inaugural women’s rumble. Kudos to WWE for realizing what they have with Asuka, ESPECIALLY since it turns out someone was waiting backstage the whole time.
That’s right, Ronda Rousey officially joined the WWE last night. It would have been easy for WWE to put her at #30 and have her win, but that wouldn’t have worked for the fans. You don’t want to debut Rousey and immediately put her behind the 8 ball, so I’m glad they waited until after the match to bring her out. She didn’t say a word, but she clearly knows what to do when you’re in a WWE ring this time of year. One point at the WrestleMania sign is all it takes. For the first time in a few years, the road to WrestleMania is off to a perfect start.
The night before the Royal Rumble is no longer the final day of preparation. Thanks to the success of NXT, fans now get an NXT TakeOver event that sometimes outshines the main roster PPV. While it’ll be tough to outdo the Royal Rumble, TakeOver does have a solid card set up. Let’s get to the preview and predictions!
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The Velveteen Dream vs. Kassius Ohno
This match was just added last night, and it’s between two guys who need a big win. NXT loves to back themselves into this corner, but I have faith the match will deliver. The build reminds me of Ohno/Itami, where Itami insulted Ohno, lost a match, then Ohno gave him the ‘I told you so’ treatment. Dream did that when Ohno lost to Gargano, then Dream lost to Gargano, then Ohno confronted him backstage and now we have a match. Dream had the match of the night with Aleister Black at the last TakeOver, so he has a lot to live up to Saturday night. The key for him is going to be avoiding the KO and using his athleticism to his advantage. I’m not sure how much longer Kassius is going to hang around in NXT, so I think Dream should go over here.
Prediction: Velveteen Dream picks up his first big win at an NXT TakeOver
Extreme Rules Match: Adam Cole vs. Aleister Black
NXT doesn’t usually venture into gimmick match territory for their TakeOver specials. That’ll change when Undisputed Era’s leader Adam Cole takes on Aleister Black in an Extreme Rules match. These two first squared off on the December 13th episode. Black defeated Cole in that match, earning a spot in the #1 contender Fatal Four Way. Cole took offense to not being in the match and more or less cost Black his chance at a title shot by attacking him. A few weeks later Black and Roderick Strong were challenging Fish & O’Reilly for the tag belts. Once again Cole interfered and cost Black a win.
Usually an Extreme Rules match would favor the guy who REALLY wants to hurt the other guy. While that would be Black in this case, the no DQ stipulation means that Fish & O’Reilly can interfere throughout.
The positive for Black: Undisputed Era has made A LOT of enemies. If Fish & O’Reilly interfere, don’t be surprised if Roddy Strong or Sanity come out to even the odds. Aleister Black is still undefeated in singles action, so this will be a very interesting outcome.
Prediction: Aleister Black
NXT Tag Team Title Match: Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish (C) vs. Authors of Pain
Remember when I said Undisputed Era has made a lot of enemies? Well none are more vicious and powerful than the Authors of Pain. The Authors were the most dominant team in NXT for a long stretch of time, and they’ll be looking to regain that distinction against the tag champs. The Authors don’t have as much experience as Fish/O’Reilly, but they make up for it in size and strength. They’ve beaten a who’s who list of all time NXT tag teams, including The Revival & DIY. Fish & O’Reilly have been more opportunistic than dominant, but they certainly know how to win. I do think that Black beats Adam Cole, which makes it hard for me to pick against the champs here. Undisputed Era has been impressive since debuting and I don’t think having all three guys lose at a live special is the right call. Plus, Authors of Pain need to be on the main roster wrecking people ASAP.
Prediction: Fish & O’Reilly
NXT Women’s Title Match: Ember Moon (C) vs. Shayna Baszler
Poor Ember Moon. She’s been a star in NXT since her debut, but could never win the big one against Asuka. Asuka moved to Raw still undefeated, but Ember continued to scratch and claw her way to the top. She competed in the Fatal Four Way match for the vacant title at WarGames and FINALLY won the title. How is she rewarded? A match against Shayna Baszler, who has been murdering women for weeks on NXT TV. Moon is definitely up to the task, but this is a hell of a first title defense.
The build for this match has been perfect. Ember is not only a fighting champion, but she’s a champion with a moral code. Shayna Baszler has been terrorizing the women’s division for weeks and the only person to stand up for the fallen has been Ember. Just like in the movies, the hero is only as good as the villain, and Shayna is one hell of a villain. I love that she has an actual MMA background, because it makes everything she’s doing seem a bit more dangerous. While Ember has the wrestling advantage, all it takes is one misstep for Baszler to apply the Kirifuda Clutch. If that happens Saturday night, Ember’s reign will be a short one. Shayna has a ton of potential, but Ember deserves at least a few successful title defenses.
Prediction: Ember Moon
NXT Title Match: Andrade Almas (C) vs. Johnny Gargano
It’s not often that the main event steals the show at TakeOver, but that’s exactly what’s going to happen in Philly. These two have already fought twice, including the off the charts match at TakeOver: Brooklyn. Interestingly enough, that match is what started Almas on his current hot streak. Since defeating Gargano in Brooklyn, Almas has been the star of NXT and enters TakeOver as the NXT champ. Gargano went in the opposite direction post Brooklyn and honestly owes his spot in the title match to a little bit of luck. Gargano was given a spot in the Fatal Four Way #1 contender’s match after Velveteen Dream was injured. To his credit, he earned the victory in that match, and now goes on to fight someone he has never defeated.
There are two people to remember heading into this match. Candice LeRae just signed with WWE less than two weeks ago. She is Gargano’s real life wife, and also someone who could even the odds if Zelina Vega gets involved. The other is Tommaso Ciampa. He was injured in May after turning on Gargano, and his expected return is early 2018. Last time I checked, it was early 2018, and what better time to return than when Gargano is in a title match? He’s also been selectively active on Twitter lately. IF Ciampa is healthy, NXT would be crazy to do anything but Gargano vs. Ciampa for the NXT title at the WrestleMania show. In order for that to happen, Gargano would have to win Saturday night.
Prediction: Gargano wins, Ciampa attacks post match similar to Owens/Zayn after Sami won the NXT title.
Mick Foley Got Ejected From A Chicken Wing Eating Competition For Stuffing Uneaten Wings In His Fanny Pack
FOLEY – Professional wrestling star Mick Foley has been ejected from Philadelphia’s Wing Bowl eating contest after stuffing uneaten chicken wings into a fanny pack in an attempt to increase his total.
People following Friday’s event on social media dubbed Foley’s antics “inflate gate,” a play on the Super Bowl-bound New England Patriots’ deflated football controversy.
Mick Foley is a legend. He’s been thrown off cells, thrown through cells, lit on fire, fallen on thumb tacks, had his skin shredded with barbed wire and written multiple best selling books. Am I surprised Mick Foley wore a fanny pack to a wing eating competition? No. Am I surprised he stuffed uneaten chicken wings into his fanny pack in an attempt to win the competition? No. Mick Foley plays by his own roles. That’s what a lifetime of kicking ass gets you: a do whatever the hell you want badge where you can do whatever the hell you want wherever you want. Mrs. Foley’s baby boy may not be able to eat the most chicken wings, but I guarantee he was the most person insane person at that competition.
If You’re a Male Cop Looking to Get Your Butt Grabbed Then You Bettter Start Hanging Around Claude Giroux
HOCKEY – Claude Giroux was arrested Tuesday night according to the Ottawa Sun. A source told the Ottawa Sun Giroux was “repeatedly grabbing the buttocks of a male police officer” and alcohol is believed to be involved.
Several sources confirmed to the Sun that Giroux spent Tuesday night in jail and he is expected to be released without any criminal charges.
No comment has been made by the Ottawa Police or the Flyers at this point.
The only way this story gets better is if Claude Giroux yelled “tushy squeeze!” every time he grabbed the cops ass. Whether it happened or not, that’s how it played out in my mind. I don’t want to pass judgment, but I’m going to assume things aren’t OK at home for Claude. Flyers lose in the first round of the playoffs and all of a sudden Claude is in Ottawa grabbing everybody’s ass. Whoever the Ottawa Sun’s source is sure has some magnificent detective skills as well. “Alcohol was believed to be involved.” Shocking. I also can’t wait for hockey fans to spin this story into another “hockey players are the toughest” tirade. “Oh you don’t grab other guys butts? Hockey players do, and they’re the toughest athletes in the world!!!”.
The 76ers are on the way to a historic losing streak after losing their 22nd STRAIGHT game against the Bulls (The 2010 Cavs hold the record at 26). Usually how the Sixers perform does’t bother me, they could win or lose and I wouldn’t care, BUT… today I was so shocked to look up at Sportscenter and see how bad they are that I actually stubbed my toe on the end of my kitchen counter. 76ers, hang it up now so no one else gets hurt, especially your fan base….SWEEET BURN.
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia kicks off season 9 tonight, and whether this has anything to do with it isn’t clear, but what is clear is that it’s awesome. I guess Chase Utley was impressed by Mac’s speed after all. Oh what a glorious game of catch it will be.