How Roman Reigns could have been what Vince McMahon wants him to be
I asked my Facebook friends a question a week or so ago. I asked them…who is the modern day Magnum T.A. …the man that debuted in 1978, as Terry Allen and captured the Global Tag Team Championship (in the NWA Florida territory) on five separate occasions with Scott McGhee, Dusty Rhodes, and Brad Armstrong. Shockingly, do you know who I believe could have been? Roman Reigns. I want to lay out my case as to why Roman isn’t the modern day Magnum T.A., but how and why he could have been. While popular (just like Roman Reigns was with The Shield) Magnum wasn’t pushed as a major singles star too quickly. The territories he worked in realized that while he was a good worker, attractive, and popular, that a slow build for a baby face was best suited. Allen eventually moved on to the Mid-South territory where he took on the name “Magnum TA.” While this wasn’t a major reinvention of who he was, it was a significant change, based on his good looks and the popularity of the TV show “Magnum P.I.” Still, it wasn’t until 1984 that Magnum captured his first major single’s title, the North American Heavyweight Championship. It took Magnum six years to win a major singles title…six years! Magnum only held that title for five months, then moving on to Jim Crockett Promotions. Magnum got a nice mid-card push with JCP, beating Wahoo McDaniel for the United States title, defending it for some time, before losing it to Tully Blanchard, to win it back in a brutal steel cage, I quit match. It was during this time that Magnum got a few World title shots, but never beat the champion, Ric Flair. Finally, in what many believed was a way to prepare Magnum for a world title run, he lost an amazing “best of 7” series of matches against Nikita Koloff, giving Koloff the United States Championship. Sadly, Magnum was in a crippling car accident shortly after, forcing him to retire.
Taking a look at Roman Reigns, one can see why Vince loves him so. From his size, to his looks, to yes…even his in ring ability, which isn’t as bad as so many say it is. The guy clearly has the “it” factor and Vince wants to exploit it ASAP. Therein lies the issue. While the fans supported Roman Reigns in The Shield, that didn’t mean that they saw him as the next big thing, not yet. Pushing Reigns as “the man” coming out of a disbanded Shield, would have been like Florida Pushing Magnum as their star after his team with McGhee, Rhodes, or Armstrong lost their tag titles. As popular as Magnum was then, that would have led to resentment like we see with Reigns for being pushed as such. Even when Magnum came into JCP, and was pushed hard on the midcard, with the United Sates title, he wasn’t instantly pushed as a threat to Ric Flair. He absolutely didn’t come into JCP by capturing the World title, let alone capturing it multiple times!
If Roman would have become a strong mid-card guy, coming out of the disbanded Shield, if he would have won the tag titles a few times, then the U.S. or I.C. title while challenging for, but just coming up short of the WWE title, if he would have backed up more popular stars as their buddy, their insurance policy, their friend, if he would have gotten new gear, a new entrance theme, and not walked through the crowd anymore, he could be today what Vince wants him to be. Roman Reigns could have been the next Magnum T.A. Instead he a borderline heel that the company wants to be a baby face, but they messed it up. The only answer is for Reigns to go completely heel and get support, as most modern day fans cheer, and support heels. Then he could slowly work his way back to honest baby face, and likely carry the fans with him, but I suspect Vince McMahon is far too stubborn to do that, even though that is clearly what worked for “The Rock.”
Today there has never been a wrestler like Magnum T.A. There could have been, but the WWE blew it.
Here are my "worst case" scenario's, that if happen, would make NJPW's Wrestle Kingdom 12 a complete failure!
Wrestle Kingdom 12 worst case scenario's-
Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) vs. The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship)
Worst Case: The Young Bucks win. This match is where a torch has to be passed. We have to see RPG Vice 3K billed as the new big thing in the Jr tag division. If not, what's the point?
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, & Tanga Loa) (c) vs. Chaos (Beretta, Tomohiro Ishii, & Toru Yano) vs. Michael Elgin & War Machine (Hanson & Ray Rowe) vs. Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Takashi Iizuka, & Zack Sabre, Jr.) vs. Taguchi Japan (Juice Robinson, Ryusuke Taguchi, & Togi Makabe) (NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship Gauntlet Match)
Worst Case: Chaos wins when Yano nut shots everyone they face on the way to victory. It'll be bad enough if they win one phase of this "gauntlet" that way. Chaos should be eliminated first with Yano getting pinned.
Cody Rhodes vs. Kota Ibushi-
Worst Case- Omega comes out to save Ibushi from defeat, and they embrace after. Second worse case, Cody wins due to Brandy getting involved, third worse case, they try and make it look like Cody can even compete with Ibushi. Ibushi should go over big here, and Omega should be nowhere to be found unless it sets up splitting The Elite from BC!
Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith, Jr. & Lance Archer) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA) (IWGP Tag Team Championship)
Worst case- Tons of SG and LIJ interference Which I highly suspect. I want this to be a completely CLEAN 2 on 2 match up with a clear winner!
Hirooki Goto vs. Minoru Suzuki (c) (NEVER Openweight Championship Hair vs. Hair Match)
Worst Case- Actually, with SG being banned from ringside, this may be one of the best matches on the card. The worst case is Suzuki losing, because he's already practically bald. What would he lose here other than the title, which is all this match should be about anyways. Goto should lose here, get his head shaved, and turn into a completely different worker, even possibly joining SG!
Hiromu Takahashi vs. KUSHIDA vs. Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship)
Worst case- Worst case is already happening...a 4 way match for a title in New freaking Japan. I'm sorry, but watching 2 of these guys lay around outside the ring most of this match will suck. Multi-man matches for single titles SUCK! KUSHIDA should win and bring prestige back to this title.
Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. “Switchblade” Jay White (IWGP Intercontinental Championship)
Worst case- Tanahashi retains, if he does, I don't see the point of the match. Just to make Jay look strong? Egh....Jay should destroy the ACE and show he means serious, serious, business and that he's a major part of NJPW's future.
Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega (IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship No Disqualification Match)
Worst Case- Ibushi runs in to save his lover from defeat as the commentators go on and on about how special that is. Second worst thing, this is a typical WWE style hardcore match with multiple BC members getting involved, especially the Bucks. This match can't possibly live up to the hype, especially with the no DQ stip being added. I'd have Jericho win and take the title to WWE where it belongs, then Kenny can sign there for the rematch.
Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito (IWGP Heavyweight Championship)
Worst case- LIJ help Naito win the title. If Naito goes over here he needs to go over clean. If that's not going to happen, Okada should win and hold the belt for at least another year.
I am a fan of NJPW but they've been Westernizing the company like crazy as of late. I doubt this all happens, in fact I suspect most will not happen, but even if some of these things happen it's a blow to New Japan for me. I want and need New Japan to be better than all of these scenarios. Not some of them, all of them. I'll be watching on January 4th. Will I watch much after that? Well, it all depends on how many of these scenarios actually occur on this card.
NXT is very likely the best professional wrestling we have in The United States. That's not saying it's amazing, but it's enough to make me watch the Takeover specials. Here are my thoughts on "War Games" from Houston on 11/18/2017
Kassius Ohno vs. Lars Sullivan:
This was a "decent" match that exposed just how "green" Lars is. I understand the idea was for someone as amazing as Hero to help "lift" Lars up to the next level, but Lars isn't ready for that yet. As great as Hero is, even he struggled to make Lars look great. The match had some cool "moments" which were both men kicking out of huge power moves. Lars has a rocket strapped to his back, where the hell is Ohno going?
Aleister Black vs. Velveteen Dream:
In what many (too many imo) are calling the "match of the night" these two men did a very good job in a match that finally happened after weeks of confrontation. The build was a lot of fun, and I have to give NXT that, they are very good at the build. Bayley was one of the best "builds" that I've ever seen in my life. They know what they are doing with that. The mechanics of the match were great, both guys know how to work. What didn't do it for me was what I feel was the over working of character building in expense of wrestling. This match as an excellent sports entertainment match, but I'd simply call it a good wrestling match. I am glad to see Patrick Clark get a character/gimmick that's working though. Black "saying Dreams name" after the match was a cool moment.
Fatal 4-Way Match for the Vacant NXT Women's Championship, Ember Moon, Kairi Sane, Peyton Royce and Nikki Cross:
I hate 3,4,5, etc way matches with a passion. When they are title matches I abhor them. Royce is another example of character work being pushed over actual wrestling, as she can't wrestle anywhere as good as Patrick Clark can, so I just find her annoying and out of place here. She's a distraction from everyone else in this match that are so much better than she is. Moon was a stellar performer on the indy's as "Athena" but she's lost something in WWE for me. No, her ridiculous finishing move doesn't help with me. It's going to hurt someone real soon. The indy's get a lot of flack for guys taking unnecessary risks but this move tops them all. It felt to me like Moon won just because it was her "turn" and she did so while the best wrestler of the group, Kairi Sane laid outside the ring because that is what multi man title matches are for, to keep the best wrestlers from winning without actually losing. This match accomplished that goal.
NXT Championship Match: Drew McIntyre vs. Andrade "Cien" Almas:
Now this ladies and gentlemen was a freaking WRESTLING mach. This had a solid baby-face (even though I prefer him as a heel personally) and a pretty good heel (wow, they've figured it out with Almas after not having a clue for months) clashing in a match that showed that they are two of the best workers in that company. No one carried anyone, no one was out of place, and there wasn't a botch to be found. This back and forth, athletic, hard hitting, wrestling is what I look for on a show. Those of you who think this style of work in every match would get "boring" annoy the piss out of me. If you want to see this kind of work all show long, you need to join me in watching Pro Wrestling Noah. This match would have fit right in there. I hate that McIntyre lost already, but Almas won me over in this match. I didn't like his little girl friend interfering, but I can get past it.
War Games (not really) Undisputed Era, vs Sanity, vs AoP and Strong:
I just couldn't get into this. This was not "War Games." The WWE owns that name now, so they can call it that, but the convoluted rules, and the cage having no roof, just took my desire to see this almost completely away. They all did a nice job for what it was, and yes Killian Dane got himself more over with his hard work, and bumping, and the right team won for me, but I just didn't enjoy it over all. Not because it was "bad," but because for me, these over the top gimmick matches do nothing for me anymore. I know many love them, especially in this Country, but I'm not one of them. It was put together decently and worked for what it was so I'm not crapping on it. Just not my style. I was also very disappointed that Roddy Strong didn't join his ROH comrades.
I'd gave the show 3.5/5 stars personally and 4/5 stars generally based on people that don't have the ridiculous tastes that I do. Black vs Dream and Almas vs McIntyre were the matches that made the show what it was. War Games was the cherry on top for car wreck wrestling fans.
The next biggest company in professional wrestling…”Two grown men, pretend fighting in their underwear!” I mean why not? I’ve seen some of the biggest names in all of wrestling today using this ridiculous statement to defend every ounce of stupidity in the business. From Joey Ryan’s dick flips, to Kenny Omega and Toro Yano’s G1 match with their ankles taped together, to no selling the most over the top moves ever performed. What gets me most of all though is that these so called “workers” don’t even understand that they are simply further insulting the business they claim to love. Maybe they do understand, and they just don’t care?
So many Times on Twitter if a fan so much as lightly critiques a workers performance, the worker replies with something like “Well, the next time I’m in my underwear pretending to fight another man in his underwear, I’ll keep that in mind.” This response has really exploded since Kenny Omega and Marty Scurll decided to kiss each other on the mouth during a match in New Japan Pro Wrestling. If a wrestling fan dared to say they didn’t care for that, wrestlers were quick to bring up how two oiled up men in their underwear wrestling around a mat was as “gay” as it gets, so why should them kissing be bothersome?
This is where we are today folks, men who used to closely guard the business now mock, and ridicule it. They scoff at it, and use the fact that it’s “fake” to allow them to do anything they want, say anything they want, and perform any way that they want, in what was once considered “the sacred” squared circle. Nothing is sacred anymore. Anything goes in professional wrestling today because as Zack Sabre Junior loves to say “Wrestling is for everyone!” This makes me miss men, real men, like Bruiser Brody, Dr. Death Steve Williams, and Terry Gordy. Do you really think they would have put up with this kind of nonsense? Wrestling has no real men defending it today. Wrestling has a bunch of tough guys in the ring, but it’s just a persona for the crowd.
Does anyone know why wrestlers officially perform in shorts, or tights, and what should also be the norm, shirtless? Is it for sex appeal? Is it homo-erotica? Television ratings? To show off the physique’s they work so hard to maintain? No, it’s none of those reasons. The reasons professional wrestlers perform in a small amount of clothing is that it’s supposed to lend to the realism of professional wrestling. Now that so few desire for wrestling to look real, then there’s no reason a wrestler can’t perform in jeans, sweatpants, dress shirts, overalls, or any type of clothing he or she wishes. The idea of wrestling in little clothing is based on the fact that clothing provides your opponent with a distinct advantage. Clothing can be grabbed, pulled, twisted, and used against you in various forms. Another problem with wearing clothing in the ring is that with sweat, it gets heavy, and burdensome on a body that’s trying to move fast, and as agile as possible. Clothing also restricts movement, and gives the wrestler wearing it a modest form of protection against chops, strikes, kicks, etc. It makes no sense to allow shirts, and other forms of loose fitting clothing to be worn in the ring. If and when a wrestler chooses to dress as such, his opponent should always attempt to use it for chokes, restraints, and any other form or maneuver that he or she finds possible in the midst of the match. But you see…that would require the mind of a worker that wants to make wrestling look as real as possible. A mind that sees wrestling as “gay looking” is too small to understand the concepts in this article. Instead those types of “wrestlers” will just do any stupid thing they want, and smack down anyone that questions it with that brilliant old defense of the mighty T.G.M.P.F.I.T.U. federation! This is what “wrestling is for everyone” has gotten us, and I fear it’s only going to get worse. If you want to find, follow, and watch the best wrestling in the world, keep your bookmark right here at Wrestling Done Right! Oh, and if someone puts T.G.M.P.F.I.T.U. on a t-shirt, I better get some damn royalties.
I was a huge Kenny Omega fan. Especially once he came to Bullet Club as “The Cleaner.” He was cool, he was bad ass, he was cocky, he was arrogant, and my god can he wrestle! He and The Young Bucks started calling themselves “The Elite” and I was on board with that too. At times they were a little silly, a little goofy, but to me it was just their arrogance. They were so good that they could act like idiots and still win championships with relative ease. I just decided to forget about Kenny wrestling a blowup doll, and a little girl. This was New Japan that was some other stupid company…so what? Then little by little I started to learn that I shouldn’t have dismissed that stuff. From his comedy matches with Yano (one during the G1 tournament no less!) to dressing up like a Disney Princess and kissing his tag partner Marty Scurll (yeah, yeah, I know it was Halloween) Kenny started showing me that silliness and over the top comedy was something he is still very willing, and perhaps even exited, to do. I once discussed this with him on Twitter and Omega told me flat out that he has never, and shall never “forsake” any style of wrestling, confirming to me that goofiness and silliness is still something that’s a big part of what he does. There is no doubt that he’s one of the best bell to bell “wrestlers” in the world, but for this journalist/wrestling snob, his desire and passion to clown way too much keeps me from keeping him at the top of my favorite wrestlers list. I don’t hate Kenny Omega, but he disappoints, and sometimes frustrates me.
Enter Jay White…his look and style instantly reminded me of Omega but that’s not to say he’s a Kenny Omega rip off. Not at all. Jay White simply has phenomenal wrestling skills, and a look that reminds you of Omega’s. I do not believe that Jay was even inspired by Omega (I could be wrong, I’ve never asked him) I just think he is who he is, and the comparisons to Omega are just that. What I like about White more is that he doesn’t have the goofy past, and so far has shown no signs of wanting to be a comedy/silly worker in or out of the ring at all. The Omega comparisons have increased since New Japan revealed that he was the wrestler behind the “Switchblade” gimmick, likely because White’s hair was wet down, and he wore a leather jacket.
White is only 25 years old and went through the NJPW Young Lion Dojo program which many agree is the best and most difficult training in all of professional wrestling. White came to the Young Lion program after teaming with Prince Devitt in a match. Devitt told White to keep in touch, and shortly after White was contacted by Bad Luck Fale due to Devitt’s recommendation, and was invited to join the Young Lion Program. White was a standout in his class, and after completing the program went on “excursion”(NJPW send their Young Lions to other countries after graduation to gain even more experience) to Ring of Honor where he went undefeated for quite some time. White also worked for the U.K. standout promotion “Revolution Pro Wrestling” where he was also a top star, as well as Pro Wrestling Gruella where he got experience working a heel that will likely help him in his “Switchblade” gimmick in New Japan.
What this writer hopes to see from “Switchblade” Jay White is what I’ve always wanted to see from Kenny Omega. That is a serious, hard hitting, no nonsense, wrestler that is out to get to the top of the business. When New Japan brought White back from excursion with the Switchblade gimmick that they teased for weeks before the reveal, and then had him challenge, and attack, the “Ace” of their company Hiroshi Tanahashi, the IWGP Intercontinental Champion, I got very excited. For a returning Young Lion to come back to the company and receive a title match on Wrestle Kingdom (New Japan’s biggest show of the year) is a sign that the company sees White as a very big deal. It’s a good sign that everyone needs to pay attention to this kid, Switchblade Jay White. Oh, and remember who told you to get on his bandwagon when he was just a “Young Lion”….Wrestling Done Right!
As I sit here getting ready to watch All Japan Pro-Wrestling’s “Jun Akiyama and Takao Omori Debut 25th Anniversary Show,” I find myself both excited, and a little sad. Several years ago I started a website called “Wrestling Done Right.” I was covering every company I could, attending shows up and down the East coast. From large companies like “Ring of Honor,” and “Combat Zone Wrestling,” to small ones like “Pro Wrestling Empire” (when it was called UWE) to “Legacy Wrestling.” To me, if it was wrestling outside the WWE, I wanted to support it. A funny thing happened though…as I watched all this “indy” wrestling I started to get more particular in regard to my tastes. Several things caused this to happen, the main one being lesser talented guys getting larger pushes than guys much more talented than them. That seemed an awful lot like the WWE that I hate so much. Other things like guys wearing horrible ring gear, being grossly out of shape, and getting placed on shows as a favor, or because they were the only one at the wrestling show that had a promoters license or insurance, began to give me a distaste for “indy” wrestling. While I am not here to write off indy wrestling as a whole, because there is no doubt that many indy wrestlers are better, and more entertaining, than WWE “sports entertainers,” they are however too often performing on shows with guys that don’t deserve to be in the same locker room as them. Since the WWE’s raid of the indy’s as of late, this problem has seeped into places like CZW, ROH, and Evolve. Money is so tight on the indy’s (something I understand) that promoters can’t often afford to book the best indy guys available. Then you have money marks that run places like Wrestle Circus that can snatch up just about anyone they want by simply paying more than other places. There is little loyalty in the world of indy wrestling these days. If you agreed to do a show somewhere, but a place like Wrestle Circus outbids them for your services, so be it. I’m not writing this article to debate that practice, but it personally annoys me.
Three years ago my colleague Chuck Ransford suggested I start watching “New Japan Pro Wrestling.” I resisted at first because of the language barrier but finally broke down and watched a few of their shows. I immediately learned three things. One, the language barrier doesn’t matter. Good wrestling is good wrestling. Two, legitimate, old school style, hard hitting, professional wrestling only died in America. Three, I wanted more of this, as much as I could get. You see, I not only once accepted anything outside the WWE as “Wrestling Done Right,” I was convinced that old school wrestling that consisted of good selling, strong strikes, submission holds, etc. had died and the super spot fest wrestling was now what professional wrestling was. I didn’t want to be an old codger refusing to allow wrestling to “evolve.” New Japan taught me that was wrong. However…New Japan has its share of spotty matches and wrestlers. I like that, for the most part, they are confined to a “Juniors” division but could it be possible that there were Japanese companies that didn’t do any of the spot style matches? Don’t get me wrong, I am not a total hater of high flying matches. When those matches are done by those that are the most talented at those types of performance, they are enjoyable, but if I could find a company full of Katsuyori Shibata’s and Tomohiro Ishii’s I would be in my wrestling dream world!
Having known of the Japanese companies for years, but having never really followed them much outside of their major stars like The Great Muta, Giant Baba, Kenta Kobashi, and Mitsuharu Misawa, I had no idea what Pro Wrestling NOAH and All Japan Pro Wrestling looked like today. Was I ever pleasantly surprised! While their rosters have dwindled, and they are far from their glory days, the wrestling in those two companies is as solid as ever. The old school, no spot style, solid selling “Kings Road” and “Pure” professional wrestling remained and is on display in every match for these companies. NOAH and AJPW outperform New Japan Pro Wrestling when it comes to taking wrestling seriously, and presenting it like a legitimate athletic competition. As I got to know their current rosters I feel in love with these companies and recognized that they best represent “Wrestling Done Right. This is why I am so excited as I prepare to watch All Japan Pro-Wrestling’s “Jun Akiyama and Takao Omori Debut 25th Anniversary Show.” I’m sad though too, because so few American fans follow my lead. Yes, I am thankful for those that do, but I wish I had more people to discuss the greatness of these companies with. I wish there were more Facebook groups talking about these companies and their wrestlers. I just have to accept that only the most intelligent, the most particular, the most demanding, fans on pure pro wrestling will support these companies. Only the niche market that doesn’t see wrestling as a joke, that doesn’t see wrestling as some kind of silly “variety show” will realize and accept that while NJPW is awesome, it’s AJPW and NOAH that display the greatest and truest form of Wrestling Done Right!
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing…sitting in a “sports center” in Harrisburg, Pa. that Saturday night in 2014, where I had come to see the main event of AR Fox vs AJ Styles, I was first captivated by man I had never heard of before. A man named Eddie Smooth. Smooth took on Anthony Neese that night in an amazing match that caused me to want to know more about Smooth, and from that point forward that’s exactly what I did. Wrestling Done Right, while not in existence at that point, was technically born that night because as I began to get to know Smooth, and follow his career, I asked myself “why can’t every indy wrestler be this good?” Ultimately I know that’s not really fair. Smooth was special, a prodigy even. Smooth began training in pro wrestling as a teenager in Philadelphia with guys like Devon Moore. I’ve seen tapes of Smooth and Moore wrestling in their back yards doing things that many wrestlers can’t do after years of working the indy scene. It just came natural to Smooth. His athletic ability and insistence on always keeping in top physical shape simply allowed him to do things others only dreamed of. When he moved from Philadelphia to Harrisburg Pa he hooked up with local indy promoter Rob Noxious and performed regularly for Noxious’s “Classic Championship Wrestling.” While there he was noticed by a rival promotion called “The Ultimate Wrestling Experience” who asked him to consider working with them. Smooth agreed and that is when his rise to much greater recognition began.
As the years went on I watched Smooth take on all the top “indy” names in the business. Smooth had five star matches with guys like AR Fox, Amasis, and Shane Strickland, in the UWE. After the UWE folded Smooth faced men like Sean Carr, Lio Rush, PJ Black, Façade, Cedric Alexander, and Johnny Gargano in Pro Wrestling Empire, MCW Pro Wrestling, and Legacy Wrestling, where Smooth held both the Legacy and PWE championships, holding the Legacy title for over a year. During this run Smooth appeared for Global Force Wrestling, defeating their current X-Division Champion Sonjay Dutt, and BLK Jeez, as well as for Combat Zone Wrestling on their 2015 Cage of Death Show in a Best of the Best elimination match where he lost to another GFW star, Dezmond Xavier. Smooth was a key part of the faction “Hollywood’s Finest.” He complimented Kevin Murphy, Laszlo Arpad, and BooKoo Buckz perfectly. When Andy Vineberg came into the faction late in its life, Smooth worked wonderfully with him as well. This faction was one of the biggest heel factions in all of indy wrestling, but much like Smooth, didn’t get all the credit they deserved for their hard work.
The most amazing thing about Smooth was his part time schedule. While everyone who knew of him, and enjoyed his matches, pleaded for him to work more, what many didn’t know is that Smooth was working a full time job while also attending nursing classes. The fact that this man could just show up at a venue and steal the show was unbelievable. Since beginning to work with Legacy wrestling myself (as a commentator) and working closely with PWE, many times I’ve seen Smooth arrive just before show time, get in his gear, and go have the match of the night. Afterwards, due to his hectic schedule, he would leave while still in his gear, apologizing to everyone as he did so since he wasn’t able to stick around. Since successfully graduating, Smooth has gone on to have an amazing career. He’s a happily married man, having two beautiful children. While I believe that Smooth could have “made it,” he had a decision to make. Give up all that he had worked hard to accomplish to toil on the independent scene possibly for years, in hopes that the WWE or GFW would notice and reward him with a handsome full time contract, or accept that he had a nice little run in independent professional wrestling and concentrate on his successful medical career and family. How can anyone fault him for deciding to go with career and family? It also doesn’t help that he has many nagging injuries that he’s too proud to complain about openly. He’d rather take “heat” for leaving the business because “it’s not good enough for Eddie Smooth!” That’s classic Eddie Smooth and when I think about it, there really is no other way to do it for that “character” or to stay in the world of professional wrestling…gimmick.
I’ll miss Eddie Smooth on the wrestling scene. He was a measuring stick to all of those around him. As I mentioned earlier in this article, Smooth was the start of “Wrestling Done Right” because he spoiled me. His unbelievable talent, skills, and ability, is how I judged everyone else. Don’t blame Eddie for that though, he was as humble of a man as I’ve ever met. While in gimmick he was as brash, and cocky as any “heel” has ever been, the man behind Eddie Smooth however was friendly, generous, and kind. It’s that man that I hope to remain friends with because even outside wrestling he still does things “right.” Central Pennsylvania independent wrestling is better because of Eddie Smooth, and you should thank him for that. You can see Eddie’s last match on October 21st at the Zembo Shrine for Pro Wrestling Empire as he takes on his former stable mates Kevin Murphy, Laszlo Arpad, and Ryan Kolby, with manager Andy Vineberg locked in a shark cage. If you aren’t familiar with Smooth, do yourself a favor and Google him. Many of his matches are on YouTube. Below is an interview I had with him early on in his career that I’m proud of. It was a blast doing it, and I think really helped show the world just who Eddie Smooth was!
Thank you Eddie Smooth for Wrestling Done Right!
I don’t write articles much anymore. I still do Facebook Live video rants that I often call “Right Takes.” I believe that Facebook is the future of nearly all things internet related, and Live video’s capture more attention because too many people are too lazy to read. If not too lazy, they simply stop reading the second an article says something they disagree with. For some reason though I am still choosing to write about this topic.
I don’t understand today’s wrestling fan, especially today’s American fan, that wants wrestling to be silly, over the top, unbelievable, and full of nonsensical “variety.” I don’t understand those who see wrestling as some kind of social experiment saying stupid things like “Wrestling is for everyone!” In some ridiculous drive to increase wrestling’s audience, they figure that anything goes in the world of professional wrestling as if it’s “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood” land of make believe. If any fan disagrees or voices their desire for wrestling to be presented more realistically, 100% of the time the response will be “It’s still real to me damn it!” Either in text, or with that over used meme of the fat guy crying at a wrestling question and answer session with Jim Cornette, Bobby Eaton, Dennis Condry, and Terry Funk. It’s this generations of wrestling fans favorite quote, and without a doubt absolutely their favorite go to meme on all social media outlets.
Here’s the thing though…when posting that meme, or typing those words, you’re proving yourself to be the fool that you are. While it may be funny to make fun of that guy (David Wills by the way) because he’s taking wrestling so seriously, because he got so emotional, because he shouted such a supposedly silly thing, did you know that he was thanked by Terry Funk for saying it? That Jim Cornette stood up for him on his podcast? Yes, if it had been me I’d be embarrassed for getting emotional like that, and I am sure Mr. Wills is to a degree. However, for today’s modern fan to take that incident and use it to ridicule anyone that simply wants to see professional wrestling presented in a more realistic fashion says all we need to know about these kind of fans. These kind of fans are saying screw you Terry Funk, screw you Jim Cornette, and screw any traditions or style that came from back when wrestling was actually more popular than it’s ever been. These fans don’t respect the past, and only want wrestling to be a goofy side show full of circus acts, and some of the worst comedy known to man. They are proud of nonsense that’s far, far, more embarrassing than David Wills emotional outburst. Yet these fans are somehow claiming to be on higher moral ground. These fans claim to better represent professional wrestling.
You can all talk about how over Joey Ryan’s penis flip is. You can tell me how much money Colt Cabana has made in his career. You can tell me how ground breaking the Hardy’s teleporting out of the ring was. You can defend the supposed best wrestler in the world wrestling a blow up doll, or a little girl, and now talking about possibly wrestling a stuffed cat. You can even feel justified in enjoying those things. I mean if you’re so strange that you find those kind of things enjoyable, more power to you. But, if you use a man’s passionate cry over what wrestling was always supposed to be about…making everything that goes on look, feel, and seem REAL, then you’re just a jackass that spits on the sport (yes I said sport) that you claim to love. Now I’m not going to cry over it, but I am passionate enough to say to you that if that’s the kind of fan you are, I hate you, because you killed wrestling.
You can see more of my thoughts on people like this killing wrestling here-
You can read David Wills thoughts on his infamous words here
Most of my previews, reviews, opinions, and thoughts are on Facebook Live anymore, but I wanted to put out an old fashioned written review of Evolve 88. Here it is-
Jason Kincaid defeated Caleb Konley- This was a solid opener as Kincaid has been struggling to get a win in Evolve ever since signing with the company, but is over with the fans, and a top notch wrestler. Konley was a major player in Evolve for years until signing with GFW and is making his return to Evolve here. This was a very well worked match that felt like both guys really wanted to win for different reasons. Kincaid did a very cool spot at the end where he used the top rope to reach the buildings rafters and shimmied on them until he was over Konley and dropped with a double foot stomp onto him. He then picked up the submission victory to give him a much needed win. The loss doesn’t hurt Konley, it just shows him that things have gotten tougher since he was last in Evolve.
– ACH vs. Austin Theory never happened because ACH said he came to Evolve to be in main events, not in the second match of the show. He wished Theory well with whomever he would face now, but it wouldn’t be ACH because ACH is just too damn good for that. I loved this move because smiling ACH reminds me of what the WWE has done with Apollo Crews. It doesn’t work, no one cares, and it sinks careers. Here ACH called BS on that and set himself on a new track in Evolve.
–Ethan Case from local PWX (which aired on Floslam before Evolve) then made his way out and challenged Theory. I like that Evolve has turned Theory heel, even though I don’t know what to make of his manager/valet Priscilla at all. Theory is only 19 years old but has shot his way up in the wrestling world quickly. As skilled as he is he’s also been struggling for wins so it makes sense that he would act out in desperation. This was a good match that allowed Case to show himself to a large audience and give Theory a much needed win as well.
– Keith Lee was challenged by Ethan Page again after Lee beat him at Evolve 86. I personally don’t know how to take Ethan Page. He’s a great worker and a solid promo guy, but he doesn’t seem to take anything seriously. Even when he is being an evil, sadistic, heel he comes off as slightly silly, or somewhat of a parody of an evil, sadistic heel. When he beats someone it feels like an upset but when he loses it attributes to me not taking him seriously. Having “Gate Keepers” didn’t help because it made him seem even weaker than he already seems in Evolve. I really don’t know what Page needs to get a boost in Evolve. Lee is great, sloppy at times, but fun to watch. If there’s a problem with him it’s that he tries to do “super indy” stuff far too often. He’s capable of it, but over does it. He also has back and forth matches with guys that he should steamroll. I think he’s going places, but how he’s booked needs to be adjusted a little. Enjoyable match that Lee won again.
– Tracy Williams then took on Darby Allin immediately, as after Lee won Stokely Hathaway and Williams hit the ring to beat down Lee, and Allin made the save. Allin is another wrestler that I don’t know how to take. He’s a decent worker but his gimmick is odd for Evolve. My take on him is that he’s a Raven type of character, willing to sacrifice his body because he knows he’s smaller and has to do something to withstand the rigors of Evolve. However, he wins very few of his matches, but then in my opinion he shouldn’t win many. He doesn’t win here either, even though like always he puts up a great fight. Williams is in one of the biggest pushes I’ve ever seen anyone get in Evolve as of late and while I like him, he needs a small tweak of some sort. He doesn’t seem mean enough or something. He’s a terrific wrestler as most in Evolve are, but he’s too methodical. Evolve already has Thatcher and Sabre Jr with that kind of presentation. Williams needs to add a little more flair to his gimmick, but over all this was a great match. I can’t recall the last time Williams lost a match in Evolve and if he is on his way to taking the title off Sabre Jr. I’m fine with that.
– Fred Yehi was set to face Trent Berretta but Trent had to have fluid drained from his elbow and had to pull out. ACH made his way back out in street clothes and said that this was a match he’d accept but wanted Yehi to put his number one contendership on the line. ACH also said he’d wrestle in his street clothes because “this isn’t a main event match.” Fred of course agreed and one of the best matches of the night was on. I really like this new ACH, and Yehi is one of the best wrestlers in WWN right now, having held the FIP title for what feels like forever. This hotly contested match saw both men pull out everything they had. Just when it looked like ACH had it won, Yehi gets his knees up for ACH’s 450 splash and locks in his Koji clutch for the submission victory.
– EVOLVE Tag Team Championship Match: Anthony Henry & James Drake (The Work Horsemen) took on the tag Champions Chris Dickinson & Jaka in another match of the night. Too often non Evolve contracted wrestlers stop in to take a loss so that’s what most expected was going to happen here. Instead we get an amazing tag match that saw new champions crowned. Henry has been impressing WWN in 2017, and Drake’s new age enforcer gimmick works. This also shows that fans cannot expect every new face in Evolve to lose, even in title matches. Evolve, much like most other companies today also needs tag teams badly. Here they immediately established Henry and Drake as a legit team, which is a great thing for Henry and Drake but also for Evolve. I loved this match. I loved this result, and I loved what it did for the Evolve tag scene. The only bad thing about this match is that it pretty much assured that the main event wouldn’t see a title change. I mean the chances of the tag and singles titles changing on the same show is pretty low.
– EVOLVE Championship No Holds Barred Match: Champion Zack Sabre Jr. took on former champion Timothy Thatcher with a determined Stokely Hathaway at his side. I really felt like it was time to put the title back on Thatcher. Yes, a lot of Evolve fans seem to hate him, but so what? He’s legit, a bad ass, and now with Stokely he’s more than one dimensional. I also thought this match favored Thatcher as he’s more of a fighter than Sabre is. While I am not a fan of gimmicked matches like this, this one was fun. They didn’t take it too far, and still used a lot of pure wrestling, which I appreciate. Sabre won when he locked on his octopus hold through the ropes and Thatcher just couldn’t take it. Stokely broke down in legitimate tears after the match, which was awesome, and Sabre chastised Thatcher for not handing the title to him (an Evolve tradition) when he won it from him months ago. Thatcher looked angry, but got the title and handed it to Sabre. I don’t know where Thatcher goes from here in Evolve. Many fans don’t like/appreciate him but yet love Sabre who has less charisma than Thatcher does. This felt like a sendoff for Thatcher which will bum me out if so. Sabre does have the daunting task of facing Yehi and Williams coming up, so at least there’s that. Great main event though, even though my guy lost.
Overall- A great show from Evolve here. Every match was good to great and the tag title shocker made the night. ACH’s new attitude was much needed, and watching Theory progress is going to be fun so long as this Priscilla angle doesn’t get goofy. Keith Lee needs to kill a few guys instead of struggle against them, and Page…I don’t know what Page needs. Allin needs a stable imo, or something around him to make him more relevant. I have loved Evolve since day one and so long as they stick to what they always have been, and don’t try to expand what they do to reach more people, they are the best American company out there today. Evolve 88 showed me that they can stay on the course that brought them to where they are. If they do, I’ll be singing their praises forever. As for the crowd…they didn’t care until the tag title change but that doesn’t matter to me. Just because a crowd doesn’t get it doesn’t mean the wrestling isn’t great.
9/10 show here…watch it!
I knew of Puroresu all my life. I very casually kept up with it in wrestling magazines way back before the internet existed. I loved Jushin Thunder Liger, The Great Muta, and Masahiro Chono when they came into the NWA/WCW. Yet I never cared to trade tapes or anything like that in order to see what Japanese wrestling was all about. I would admit that Antonio Inoki, and Giant Baba, must be great, and that American's going over there to work were having amazing careers. Hell, one of my all-time favorites may as well moved over there full time, because Bruiser Brody was a Japanese all-star for sure. But ultimately to me, that was Japan, and this is the United States. Even if it was amazing over there, I didn't much care. There was a language barrier that I found too annoying to try and overcome, or get past, and no way would I accept that anything was as good as my favorite American shows, companies, and wrestlers. I paid them respect in my mind, and by reading anything any magazine wanted to print about things over there, but that was all I was interested in doing. What a mistake that was.
Here I am at 47 years old just now fully discovering Puroresu. Throughout the years I kept up with it a little better than I did in the magazine days. I saw some matches from All Japan, New Japan, and Noah, on YouTube and other places, but I still didn’t have a desire to “get into it.” I saw several Japanese stars come into Ring of Honor, and they were great, but I figured that Ring of Honor could match them in talent, so I was fine with that. When Gabe Sapolsky began working with Dragon Gate, I got into that and was very interested in Dragon Gate Japan, but before I could get into that fully, DGUSA ended and Evolve took over. Once again I figured that was likely on par with Dragon Gate, and it was in English, so that was good enough for me. Again, what a mistake.
I’m now into my third year of Puroresu thanks to New Japan Pro Wrestling. As anyone that follows WDR at all will attest, I have become a rabid NJPW fan and advocate. Recently I’ve started following Pro Wrestling Noah and love it just as much, if not more than NJPW. This rabid fandom has caused me to go back and watch old shows and they are timeless in their appeal and better than anything I’ve ever watched or liked in the past. That’s right, New Japan, All Japan, and Pro Wrestling NOAH of old are much better than the NWA, WCW, UWF, and World Class. That doesn’t mean those American companies are now nothing to me, not at all, but as much as I loved those companies, the Japanese promotions blow them out of the water. The presentation is better, the matches are better, and the wrestlers are better. As big of a professional wrestling fan that I am, I never thought it possible that I could be any bigger of a fan…until I fully dived into Puroresu.
I once insisted that wrestlers like Ric Flair and Harley Race were the best of all time, and while I believe they are still two of the best, they can’t touch guys like Kenta Kobashi and Mitsuharu Misawa. If you spend any time watching those two wrestlers, I can’t see how you could ever come to a different conclusion. The reason I see it this way is the same reason that I’ll argue that guys like Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito are better than John Cena and AJ Styles today. In Japan there is no real “style.” Sure, there is the ever popular and touted “Strong Style” and the less known but very popular “Kings Road,” but in Japan no company forces a wrestler into one certain style that the company uses. When wrestlers face off in Japan, they may wrestle any way they like. In America the WWE in particular, but even other companies to a certain extent, have a certain style, a box if you will, that wrestlers are placed into and encouraged to stay in it. In the WWE it is an absolute must and that’s why everything you see in the WWE seems “cookie cutter.”
When kayfabe was exposed, and wrestling almost instantly got worse in America, it didn’t change all that much in Japan. Wrestling is respected in Japan as a legitimate sport. It’s heralded with all other professional sports in that Country and treated the exact same respect. NJPW and Pro Wrestling Noah shows are presented as legitimate athletic contests, actual sporting events that matter, and wrestlers perform, for the most part, as though winning and losing matters. Pro Wrestling Noah takes things even more serious than New Japan, and that’s why I’ve come to love them so much. I nearly walked away from wrestling years ago when it stopped being the same. Had I allowed myself to dive into Puroresu all those years ago, I know that I would have found my enjoyment there rather than compromising what I sought and accepting the over the top American product. The more I watch New Japan and Noah today, and watch the roots of those companies, the more I realize that I’ve compromised too much, that I’ve accepted things in wrestling that I would not have had to accept had I just realized that “wrestling done right” was in Japan. Now that I have realized that, now that I have embraced that, Puroresu is will you find the mass of our coverage here at WDR. Don’t make the mistake I did all those years ago and ignore it. Accept that what you love is done rightly in Japan and let us help you get caught up so you can come along this amazing journey in the land of the rising sun where there always has been, and continues to be Wrestling Done Right!
Check out this amazing match below to see exactly what I am talking about.