Mikey: Well, in the wake of SummerSlam and CM Punk, it’s almost like things have been reset. This week was all about how things changed–or didn’t–in the shuffle.
Vishal: Also Takeover! Sadly.
Charlie: I’m getting an anxiety ulcer waiting on Adam Cole news! Thanks wrestling!
Forrest: Excited to talk about NXT Rebuild 3.0 + 1.0 Thrice H’s Upon a Time
Monday: Monday Night Raw (kinda)
Charlie: Monday night raw consists of two goofy person straight man tag teams and a whole lot of other stuff that’s just repeated, blended up and then served back to us every week. Karrion Kross… is having a bad, bad time on the main roster to the point where even I’m like “woof”. I don’t know what’s going on here but it makes me chuckle and makes me kinda sad at the same time. Everyone was sure that Kross looked like a dude that would succeed on the main roster. What’s it mean when that’s not even true anymore…
Forrest: Someone backstage at WWE reportedly said the idea behind Kross’s new gear was that “Everything & everyone must be marketable. Toys, shirts, imaging, and accessories. You need to stand out to sell and this is how they sell.” That’s a line of reasoning that I understand, but the simultaneous vice grip on creative control and yet improvisational nature of weekly production taking place backstage at Raw leads to things like this where it neither looks good, nor functional. Was Kross even fitted for the gear before going out there? They put more effort into Randy Orton’s scooter.
Charlie: This week’s episode of NXT wasn’t a reset or a total disaster by any means, but we do know that new things are on the horizon. When this might be or what that might mean are still up in the air, but how are we feeling about the new logo, lads?
Mikey: Okay, so. Mikey the Graphic Designer hat is coming on, if you’ll oblige me… The identity video unveiled by Wale isn’t terrible at first glance… the swirls of color are a little out-of-date but not terrible. After all, we know the WWE lives 5 years in the past. However, when the motion graphic resolves to the logomark, that’s where we’re in trouble.
There is literally no visual or physical center to this logo, leaving it feeling unbalanced even as an upper-left graphical element. The bland black outline with sharp edges looks juvenile in a Graphic Design 101 way. The glyphs are so blended into each other than it’s unclear where one stops and the other begins. The strokes of the glyphs are all different widths… If I had to guess, they took an existing typeface, cut that shape out of the swirled color, and put a 1pt worth of black around it. If you’re going to make a quick logo by cutting out and/or outlining 3 letters from a textured background, there’s better ways to do that.
All in all, it really does feel emblematic of everything about this NXT reboot/rebrand: poorly thought-out, hastily executed, and with a distinct lack of its own identity. What does everyone else think?
Vishal: I’m just sad.
I will say, I think this episode of NXT was one of the best in a while. Ridge Holland has managed to start looking more English than Timothy Thatcher (who is, shockingly, American) and this Pete Dunne Faction vs Ciampa and Thatcher feud is really growing on me. InDex continue to be incredible, and we now have a wedding date??? There was a solid ladies’ tag match, and then Kay Lee Ray looked like a killer in her first match back on NXT. And I really enjoyed the “everyone challenges Joe” segment – Kyle had charisma for the first time in months, Pete Dunne continues to be great, LA Knight is a clown, and Ciampa vs Joe is going to be a hell of a match.
Then we had the finals of the Breakout Tournament where Carmelo Hayes continued to impress me against the awesome Odyssey Jones. Both of these guys can go, and I’m hoping they have a bright future wherever they go. And lastly, the main event was the absolutely stellar 6-man tag match between Hit Row and Legado Del Fantasma. I love both factions, I loved this match, and I love that LDF now has a lady heater. All great stuff.
Forrest: Given the enormous amount of news coming out of NXT regarding a rebrand, blacklisting media, potential NDAs for fans, I just don’t know how or why I should be invested in anything.
Wednesday: AEW Dynamite
Forrest: Colten Gunn 19-0.
Charlie: Whoever decided to put the Gunn Club on my television should be very disappointed in themselves.
Forrest: Be careful, Charlie, all my Gunn Club Gunners shoot on sight.
Vishal: Shocked that Colten Gunn has outdone the 2007 New England Patriots, but I still don’t want to watch him.
Mikey: I totally agree. I don’t think this Dynamite was a total disaster, but in my eyes there’s no reason to have The Gunn Club on the Dynamite right after CM Punk.
Vishal: Honestly, this was a fairly disappointing card for Dynamite, especially the first Dynamite post-CM Punk. I’m gonna be honest, the fact that Jericho vs MJF round 4 and QT Marshall get to be on the main PPV while the women’s battle royal is stuck on the buy-in really grinds my gears, so a big promo segment with Jericho and MJF was a poor start to the show for me. Matt Hardy in the opening match similarly just did not leave a good first impression. And honestly, I don’t think the show really improved from there! Jamie Hayter vs Red Velvet was pretty good but filled with botches, and the main event was a fun murder that ended a confused run-in mess. AEW’s better than this, and they really should have had a better show this close to their PPV.
Mikey: The only thing I can think is that this show existed as an introductory show, and that they wanted to showcase each of the “factions” in AEW right now. Even that reasoning doesn’t excuse the booking. Sure, you can excuse some of the lack of consistency as it being just an “okay” Dynamite, and in all honesty it was exceedingly fine. The issue was that this is the card as we saw it was as the result of a couple last-minute pivots, but the things they were pivoting away from were arguably worse? We’re 2 weeks away from All Out, and there’s a couple matches on the card which I still feel need to build a little for me to feel invested in them. Not to mention I would’ve liked to have seen more womens’ action rather than Colten Gunn or some of the other booked talent.
Forrest: The reality is that Dynamite has set an incredibly high bar for itself and that sometimes, it’s going to fall short of that. This is one of those times. It was almost a card in reverse, right? Starting with main event talent and then ramping up to increasingly baffling, little drawing, choices. Their insistence on highlighting male talent that will be at best midcarders someday while neglecting a women’s roster that has limitless untapped potential is frustrating, and the ending segment was messy both from a narrative perspective and a plain production one — I can’t believe Arn Anderson was the first to block the Black Mass of all people — but there’s some good things here, too:
The Lucha Bros picked up a nice win over Varsity Blonds in the Blonds’ best match yet (Fenix and Penta elevate everyone they work with). CM Punk’s microphone rushing shoutout to his wife, AJ Lee, was adorable. Hayter’s entrance was as Stardom-y as any, a quick highlight of that theatrical Joshi aesthetic that I appreciate. And if anything, Darby ending the chaotic tag match with the Coffin Drop was the right kind of storytelling going into All Out.
All of the good intentions are there, they just need to refine the direction and, potentially, get a little more realistic about who their main event talent should be. Hell, who can blame them for coasting a little on Punk’s accolades?
Mikey: Charlie and I watched a bunch of TheTimTracker’s old cruise ship vlogs. They’re fun, go check them out.
Friday: SmackDown, AEW Rampage
Vishal: SmackDown was a decent show, especially now that Brock Lesnar’s return and the Paul Heyman drama makes the Bloodline segments must-watch television. But it sucks that the women’s division is doing what it’s doing, because it’s just not enjoyable to watch Becky do chickenshit heel shenanigans and Bianca deserves better. I swear to god, though – if Finn vs Roman happens next week and the aftermath has Finn not appear at the NYC show (that I’m going to) I’m going to scream.
Forrest: The crowd is behind MITB-holder Big E in an appropriately big way and I am here ? for ? it ?.
Vishal: Meanwhile, Rampage continues to be mostly killer, very little filler, although having Frankie Kazarian and Brandon Cutler in the main event should be illegal.
Mikey: Hey! Brandon Cutler had awesome dance moves and did a dab drop. I thought that was excellent.
Another thing that was excellent was the Tay Conti and The Bunny match. It had been way too long since we’d seen Tay on AEW TV, and I was just overjoyed to see her back on. Not only is her smile and character work so charming, but she’s an absolute badass in the ring when she brings her martial arts skills to bear. The extension on her high section pump kicks! Damn!!! The Bunny was no slouch in the ring either, and I was beyond psyched when Penelope Ford came out and she united with Allie in a murder girlfriends pact.
Forrest: They sold me on Eddie Kingston and Miro immediately with Eddie dropping the mic to rush in and help an unceremoniously unmasked Fuego Del Sol. Further, the complete 180 I’ve done on Miro since his kinda shaky debut makes me really excited for the days when Andrade and others get up to full speed.
Charlie: Brandon had great dance moves but so did Kenny! Don’t forget! But Rampage was fun even if the crowed was so tired after it was filmed after Dynamite. Might wanna stop doing that one.
The Weekend: NWA EMPOWERRR
Mikey: I didn’t watch and I definitely don’t want to spoil the show, but by all accounts Empowerrr was an absolute banger of an event. But the one moment I want to call attention to here is the official retirement of Awesome Kong.