Career Reinventions via Deathmatch, John Cena, and The Best in The World. This is your Week in Wrestling

Mikey: Hello everyone! We’re following up Slammiversary and MITB weekend, so we’ve probably got at least a little bit to talk about!

Charlie: Oh yeah. Nothing WILD is happening in the world of wrestling at ALL. Nothing to see here. Nothing at all. LITERALLY in some cases. 


Sunday: Money in the Bank

Charlie: I had a lot of fun watching MITB! Not everything was the hit I wanted it to be, in fact the main event felt like a terrible slog, but John Cena returning, doing his taunts to Roman and then leaving was some next level shit. I thought the men’s MITB match was one of the best I’ve seen in a long time, even if it had some silly spots like Drew literally being pulled out of the match. Big E was the right call to win it and I’m so happy for him. 

Vishal: Yeah, I had a good time with most of the PPV. Very happy for Nikki ASH winning MITB (and going on to successfully cash it in), Charlotte and Rhea had a great match, Big E winning the briefcase was incredible, and the last 10 minutes of the show were super exciting. One of the best WWE pay-per-views since maybe last year’s Money in the Bank.

Mikey: Honestly? That Charlotte and Rhea match might have been one of the most compelling modern-day WWE PPV matches I’ve ever seen. The way the crowd was so determinedly against them at the beginning, to the way Rhea had won them over by the end? That’s wrestling to me. Just absolutely beautiful. Big E winning was another beautiful moment–the real joy so present on his face almost brought me to tears, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. It wasn’t perfect, and it’s obviously a fraught thing itself, but MITB was a perfect example of the real magic full crowds can bring to the performances. They are part of what makes liive wrestling work so well.

Monday: Monday Night Raw, Being the Elite

Charlie: This week’s BTE was like an injection of serotonin right into my brain. Honestly, the moment the Bucks turned heel I was waiting for them to kick basically everyone else off the show, but now that we’re back in prime Elite territory I am thriving. What a fun episode. Kenny, Nick and Matt being silly. The slow mo photo shoot, the bit with Kenny trying to constantly shave his beard, Matt brushing his hair to soft piano music! It was really great. Throw in a mystery at the end and I am a happy camper.

Mikey: Remember how I talked last week about the specific way the Bucks are acting out their wealth while simultaneously pointing out how ridiculous and uncomfortable they are with it? That read is definitely confirmed with this week’s shopping segment: ”You can’t just stop being poor when you’re rich.” “250. Shut up, Matt.”

I’m also getting fed so much by these backstage segments, especially the Kenny trying to shave right before call time. (ADHD mood, right there.)

Finally, Ryan Nemeth’s bits keep being more and more intriguing! He’s pulling from a lot of horror classics in this one and I’m super here for it.

Charlie: The Bucks are incredibly rich and wonderful story tellers who never get the credit they deserve. I spent the end of last year reading their book and if you think they are not 100 percent aware of the parody of the work they are doing right now, you just aren’t informed. They spent a lot of their wrestling career poor or very close to it. They did the grind on the indies to get where they are right now and deserve your respect. ANYWAY. That’s enough for BTE. 

Raw on the other hand…if you thought the return of fans might help improve the show. Uh. Think again. 

Anyone wanna talk about Karrion Kross losing to Jeff Hardy in nearly 3 minutes on his main roster debut? 

Vishal: Kross losing to Jeff Hardy like that (people seem happy Jeff’s music is back, too) is absolutely hilarious. Just… get rid of him. Please. No one wants him. His promo after the match was terrible, too – why isn’t Scarlett with him?

Charlie: I didn’t even know he had a promo after the match! God. No wonder they didn’t mention literally anything about this on NXT this week. Three hours of Raw will almost always continue to feel like a slog. I don’t know what they can do to fix it, how much they can change course. Cena coming out this week was nice, but he’s gonna be on Smackdown. I’m not sure where Raw went wrong but man oh man did it.

Tuesday: NXT

Charlie: I for one welcome my new NXT champ Jeff Hardy with open arms. 

Okay. Vishal made some good points about NXT last week. I was expecting something I maybe shouldn’t have expected in Johnny winning…I think I’m just really desperate for a babyface champion I can get behind. This weeks episode wasn’t *bad* but it was kinda bland. I loved Joe’s fire and anger, but I find myself struggling with his program with Kross because I just want Joe to take the championship. 

Vishal: Honestly, my favorite thing about this week’s NXT is how absolutely over Hit Row are. Swerve’s done an incredible job reinventing himself from the plucky babyface cruiserweight he used to be, and to be able to get his faction louder pops than Legado Del Fantasma, the MVPs of NXT’s pandemic era? Just masterful stuff. Raquel vs Xia Li was a solid match, but I think having Raquel as champ at the same time as Kross just makes them both look worse.

Mikey: I agree. Raquel’s just this absolute monster, the full package as far as a wrestler is concerned. For me, I kind of consider them existing almost in two separate universes… Raquel’s matches are so strong that they’re clearly not even on the same level. (Also, can I just shout out that I am in love with Dakota Kai’s fashion sense. Because painter pants plus corset plus bright pink curly hair on a woman who will murder is inspired.)

Charlie: Poor Xia Li taking Raquel’s finisher when she might have had a broken rib or two was ROUGH. I don’t know, even though I wanna tune in every week I just… NXT isn’t my show. I don’t know why considering there are some people I really love on it, but I’m not tuning in the way I thought I would after they switched nights. 

Vishal: Odyssey Jones is a large man, and I’m excited to see more of his stuff – he’s already super over with the NXT crowd, too. Kyle vs Austin Theory was fun, but it’s baffling to me that Kyle’s getting boos even outside of his Adam Cole feud. NXT needs to get out of the CWC, I think. And of course, Cameron Grimes is the best butler one could ask for.

Mikey: Cameron Grimes’ bits never fail to make me laugh, and I’m glad to see The Way acknowledged as the dysfunctional family they are. I don’t mind that not everything in NXT is my speed, because there’s a lot of fun to be had.

Wednesday: AEW Dynamite

Charlie: AEW Dynamite and AEW in general sure do have a lot of buzz right now. I’m just flat out gonna say it, even if everyone probably already knows it. It’s my favorite weekly wrestling show. Maybe it’s because The Elite continue to be my favorite thing in all of wrestling or maybe it’s because they have been putting on a consistent wrestling show since January of 2020, but I watch this show regularly and I can’t say the same for everything else. Night 2 of Fyter Fest didn’t feel as stuffed to the gills with can’t miss segments as Night 1 did, but Night 1 didn’t have Nick F’ing GAGE either. I believe that Jericho’s current gimmick (doing trials MJF sets forth for him to get another match) is his retirement tour. I can’t wait to see Nick kill him and then kill MJF.

Mikey: If you don’t know who Nick Gage is, the episode Vice did in their documentary series Dark Side of the Ring is an excellent, well-produced primer. (And not as dark as it sounds, though Nick’s life is chock-ful of content warnings.)

Charlie: I loved basically everything on this show from Kenny and Adam’s segment to Britt v Nyla TO the main event rematch between Mox and Lance, a Texas Deathmatch where the belt actually changed hands. Mox has had the IWGP US Championship for a LONG TIME. I’m not happy to see him lose but I’m happy that AEW’s relationship with NJPW seems strong enough that they will let title changes happen on the show. I loved this chaotic match and man with rumors of CM Punk and Brian Danielson coming in soon…the future sure seems bright over here. 

Vishal: I only managed to tune in for the finish to the main event, but I was honestly really surprised that Lance took it. With the reports that Moxley was the main reason NJPW was working with AEW, I expected him to have an even longer reign. But honestly I’m happy for Lance, it gives him the legitimacy he’s really been lacking since signing with AEW.

Mikey: There was just so much to love in this episode. Even the Chris Jericho match was pretty great–Shawn Spears has never been someone who excites me, but he put on an incredibly-solid match. Adam shoving the beer at Don’s chest and John Silver offering up the meagre sips left was inspired. Nyla and Britt’s match ruled. And Mox getting stuck in a brutal barbed wire contraption, unable to get up, was a great ending to a great match. It’s a way to have him lose by countout that makes both him and Lance look awesome.

Thursday: Impact! Wrestling

Charlie: If you’ve been paying attention, I don’t need to tell you that Impact actually popped off quite a bit at Slammiversary. I don’t watch Impact every week, clearly based off of what I write in this article, but I DO pay attention. Jay White showing up was a curveball I didn’t expect and the fun war of words between him, the Good Brothers and Kenny was so great! that combined with Mickey James and Kenny physically bumping into Josh Alexander.

Mikey: I actually watched most of Impact this week! Jay White is an incredible promo, and his bits are worth watching alone. I’m so, SO excited for him and Chris Bey together. Bey is someone who I fell in love with literally the moment I laid eyes on him. But the X Division just can’t hold my interest long enough to keep up with what’s going on. Jay recruiting for the Bullet Club, and Chris seemingly accepting, is a storyline I can get behind. Especially because he was doing some Twitter work about coming for Kenny’s belt.

I do wish, with Impact having such a robust womens’ (AKA Knockouts) division, that I could get behind the Knockouts Champion, Deonna Purazzo. But I just can’t buy her as this dominant champion in terms of her promos. I’m glad she and Mickie James got to hold court in the ring, and hearing Mickie get a “welcome back” chant was genuinely heartwarming! But every time Deonna opens her mouth, it sounds like she’s about to break into tears and it’s so distracting. She’s a very good technical wrestler, I just wish she was stronger on the mic and better at intonation.

Friday: SmackDown

Vishal: Sometimes wrestling caters specifically to me, and having Finn Balor beat Sami Zayn in the opening match of the night (it was great) and challenge Roman to close the show is a perfect example of that. I’m sure Finn isn’t gonna beat Roman, but unlike Charlie I do genuinely think that when Roman needs to he’s very capable of making it clear his opponent could beat him if luck went another way. It was that way with Edge and Bryan, and honestly I even think the Kevin Owens feud felt similar – they don’t lose because Roman beats them clean, but because he’s got the Bloodline and now Seth Rollins behind him. I’m also pumped for Cena vs Roman at Summerslam, I’m curious how Cena’s gonna fare in a real match.

Charlie: I want to believe! I do! But, I think the fact that all the babyface champions I liked turned heel last year combined with WWE seem to be on the push to make Roman look as strong as possible doesn’t give me much faith. I wanted to believe KO would win and I want to BEVELIVE Finn can take the belt off Roman, but no one has shown that they are interested in making Edge’s opponents strong. This is very much a Charlie problem, but it’s also a WWE problem. Also, the Rolling Loud stuff was WEIRD. 

Vishal: I don’t know if the Rolling Loud stuff was a good idea, honestly – the crowd was dead and wrestling is not the mainstream cultural juggernaut it used to be. I’m happy that Bianca and the Profits won their matches, but they deserve to do that in front of a crowd that actually cares about them, at least IMO.

Charlie: Yeah you can’t just transplant people into a wrestling crowd and expect good results. It almost never ends well.

Saturday: GCW Homecoming Night 1

Forrest: I let the rest of the team tackle this week’s regular shows because I wanted to dedicate some genuine time to the first night of Game Changer Wrestling (GCW)’s Homecoming event, headlined by a match between hardcore deathmatch legend and recent AEW appearee, Nick Gage, and former WWE wrestler and current Impact signee, Matt Cardona. It was more than worth my time.

Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the card featuring compelling tag team tension between Jimmy Lloyd and G-Raver, joint-toting antics between Grim Reefer and 2 Cold Scorpio, and a title-versus-title deathmatch between new Big Japan Deathmatch Champion Drew Parker and GCW Ultra Violent Champion Alex Colon all impressed as did a surprise match with bonafide gay icon Effy, one of my most favorite wrestlers of all time. GCW is good at highlighting this kind of heavy hitting, scrapping and brawling wrestling that, when punctuated with high-flying spots like they often do, really sings — and, of course, a sold out crowd hyping up every wrestler really helps. 

But there was an air of uncertainty to the whole thing while the main event loomed, a tension…

…And then Matt Cardona’s cloying, butt rock entrance music hit and the crowd erupted in what could only be described as a cathartic cacophony that had seemingly been barely held in for the hours prior. Boos, middle fingers, thrown drinks: it’s obvious that plasticine, corporate wrestler Cardona is the bad guy and it feels good — if not necessary — to hate him in opposition to the aggressively, brutally authentic Gage who has become something of an indie folk hero for good reason.

Cardona interrupts the introductions to call the ring announcer who’s dressed as a casual cosplay of Gage himself “a fucking mark” and then the two go at it. Matt gets some solid early offense, mostly due to his size advantage over Gage, in and they enter into an uneasy back-and-forth on the outside, Nick starting to really accentuate his deathmatch pedigree with a mix of chair and lightube shots, and a hilariously self-referential spot where Cardona gets slammed into a shelf of action figures while screaming and trying to escape from both Gage and the crowd — clearly scared as the match enters its second leg.

Cardona rallies a bit as they get back into the ring but it’s clear that Gage has the upper hand in both experience and brutality. He subjects Matt to multiple spots with light tubes and with his new signature weapon, a pizza cutter which he runs violently across Cardona’s forehead on each side of the ring, really playing to the crowd. They hit some glass pane spots as Cardona starts to profusely bleed, cry, and scream “fuck”, begging both Gage and the referee at various points to stop the match and generating some genuine heel heat in the process.

But – a distraction of sorts as “Judas” the only good song by AEW mainstay Chris Jericho who has a match with Gage this coming Wednesday on Dynamite hits. Gage looks around confusedly as a figure clad in all black runs in and interrupts his offense against Cardona, seemingly a thoughtful paid distraction by Matt who now has a chance to recover as Nick dispatches the figure while, simultaneously, GCW main event heels 44.OH! — recently feuding with Gage in a series of matches and promos that was never fully resolved under leader Ricky Shane Page — emerge. 

RSP tersely demands that 44.OH!’s other members (including Atticus Cogar, a standout who celebrated “Fuck Ohio” chants earlier in the night) stop the offense on Gage. They tease a 44 breakup as Gage and RSP, after confrontation, have to dispatch Page’s own boys before he grants a gift to Gage in the form of a pile of light tubes left on Cardona’s crumpled body in the corner.

Gage steps up to taking the killing shot…and RSP hits him with a trademark low-blow, harkening back to their brutal deathmatch earlier this year as Cardona takes the tubes, pelts Nick for a clean pin and 1…2…3 wins the GCW World Title.

The atmosphere turns immediately, electrifyingly hostile as Cardona collapses with the belt — every single drink the crowd has bought before in the night piling violently into the ring in syncopation with thunderous boos and “fuck you”s. Matt cracks a cheeky smile, throws up the middle finger on the apron and practically runs out of the arena pursued by what he would call “the GCW universe”. 

It was a genuinely fulfilling and compelling night of wrestling storytelling that hints at much bigger things to come for everyone involved. Here, GCW circumvents their champion taking a pin on AEW later this week (WWE could learn a thing or two re: Karrion Kross), gets to continue working with a merchandise innovator like Cardona, and launches their story between Gage and RSP into the stratosphere with hundreds of new eyes watching for the first, but not last time. Calculatedly unpredictable: the best kind of wrestling.

Cardona turning the win into a plug for Pabst Blue Ribbon immediately after certainly doesn’t hurt, either. A consummate heel, and a consummate entertainer who is clearly and deservedly enjoying himself.

Charlie Davis is the world’s premier Shatterstarologist, writer and co-host of The Match Club.

Vishal Gullapalli is highly opinionated and reads way too much.

Forrest is an experimental AI that writes and podcasts about comic books and wrestling coming to your area soon.

Mikey is a writer, graphic artist, and tabletop roleplaying designer based out of Columbus, Ohio. In his free time, he watches wrestling and indulges in horror media. Find him on Twitter @quantumdotdot.