Friday, 15 December 2017

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times // Triple H

WWE likes to use the term polarising as a positive. For years, the announce team have used this term to describe John Cena’s mixed reactions as something to be celebrated; the same approach has since been adopted for Roman Reigns. But while both Cena and Reigns certainly draw juxtaposing responses from the live crowd, when it comes to truly polarising the fan base, Triple H really is the king of kings.

To some fans, Hunter is a legendary performer and the rightful heir apparent to the WWE. For the hardcore fans, NXT, his baby, is arguably the second most beloved brand in wrestling, lagging behind only NJPW, and his recent masterstroke, reviving the War Games and filling it with ROH alumni, is testament to his ability to marry wrestling traditions with modern independent stylings. However, to others, NXT’s success glosses over his reoccurring character flaws. To some, he will always be the ultimate politician, a performer who never really matched up to the true greats and an opportunist who married the boss’ daughter, in the process forcing his way into writing meetings so that he could bury his potential opponents (his recent defeat of Jinder Mahal in India raised more eyebrows than his post-match dancing). Whichever side of the fence you fall on, one thing is for sure: when the history books are written for the WWE, Triple H will justify more than a few chapters…

Best Match: vs Chris Jericho (Raw, 17th April 2000)

This remains one of the best matches in the (near) 25 year history of Monday Night Raw and may be the most fun match of both men’s WWE runs. Triple H has had fiercer brawls and more epic struggles of endurance but this contest was an example of what an on-point WWF/E do better than anyone else: build in a supporting cast of characters (here it was Shane and Stephanie McMahon, the APA and Earl Hebner) to present a logical yet unpredictable story. As the action intensified and the red hot State College crowd began to believe in Y2J, a ref bump triggered scenes of madness: a false finish was followed up by Triple H and Hebner physically getting into it, the distraction allowing Jericho to score the pin. The count seemed a little fast but it had reason to be: an enraged Hebner had just cause to screw Hunter. When the McMahon-Helmsley regime reviewed the footage, they immediately demanded the result be overturned which led to another entertaining segment between Hunter and Hebner. This finish might have seemed a cop-out in different circumstances but here, it played into the story perfectly and set the wheels in motion for a summer long feud.

Honourable mentions: vs Cactus Jack (Royal Rumble, 2000); vs Chris Jericho (Fully Loaded 2000); vs Shawn Micheals (Summerslam 2002); vs The Undertaker (Wrestlemania 28)

Worst Match: vs Scott Steiner (Royal Rumble 2003)

Nearly fifteen years later, this remains a huge disappointment and it was the lowest ebb in what was, arguably, Hunter’s most dissatisfying year in the business. Having been one of the most believable and engaging acts in the dying days of WCW, the signing of Scott Steiner seemed like a real coup for the WWE.  Big Poppa Pump was over like Rover, still looked like a million bucks and seemed tailor made to tangle with Triple H: his reputation would surely guarantee hard-hitting, competitive matches, right? Nope: these two didn’t click on any level. Steiner blew up early and while Triple H fared better with regard to stamina, he still wasn’t able to mask his opponent’s shortcomings. Their exchanges were ugly, the match was sloppy and the non-finish was insulting. The rematch a month later was another pointless exercise; this time, Hunter derailed the Big Booty Daddy’s hype train by pinning him in the middle of the ring. Three months after rocking Madison Square Garden on his debut, Steiner was finished while Triple H’s reputation for burials gathered pace.

Honourable mentions: vs  Henry Godwin (In Your House 5); vs Randy Orton (WrestleMania 25)

Best Feud: vs Mick Foley (1997/ 2000)

Not once, but twice, did Mick Foley play a significant role in giving Hunter a leg up the card. Back in 1997, Mankind’s star was rising while Hunter Hearst Helmsley was firmly entrenched in the mid-card.  Indeed, when Hunter won the King of the Ring it was somewhat of an upset: true, he had been earmarked for the crown a year earlier but the build to this event had been all about Foley. However, the hard-hitting nature of this match meant that both men got over and subsequent brawls at Canadian Stampede, Summerslam and on Monday Night Raw saw Triple H face off against Mankind, Dude Love and Cactus Jack in consistently excellent outings. His reputation enhanced by the Foley programme, by the year’s end Hunter was ready to be elevated and paired with Shawn Michaels: D-X was born.

A few years later, Hunter was close to the Promised Land: having risen up the mid-card and having captured the WWF title (from, you guessed it, Mick Foley), he was so close to being the man. However, he needed a statement victory to obtain that alpha male status: at this point, his wins had been tainted; he needed to pin a star cleanly and convincingly. That star was Cactus Jack: first at the Royal Rumble and then inside Hell in a Cell, Foley bumped and bled for the cause, doing clean jobs that transformed Hunter from competent heel to bad ass main eventer. Triple H was a made-man and it was Foley, more than any other, who made him.

A footnote here: there are rumours that Hunter was always quick to badmouth Foley backstage, undermining his contributions to the industry. I was lucky enough to attend the Hall of Fame in MSG in 2013: the night when Foley was inducted. As the show came to an end and the cameras stopped rolling, I noticed Hunter make a point of reaching over to Foley to shake his hand. In the same building in which Cactus Jack and Triple H had waged war their mutual respect seemed genuine.

Honourable mentions: vs Kurt Angle (2000); vs Batista (2005); vs The Undertaker (2011-12)

Worst Feud: vs Booker T (2003/ 2007)

The programme with Booker epitomised the very worst of Hunter’s career: the predominance of bad taste segments (the racial overtones of "Somebody like you…doesn't get to be a world champion" went beyond wrestling heat); the insistence in proving WWE superiority over WCW (watch Triple H’s slow motion cover following his one pedigree: seemingly there was no directive for Booker to look strong here) and the lack of clear resolution (this was their only title match: the vanquished challenger never got his redemption). Their brief feud in 2007 wasn’t as offensive but was as damaging: after successfully portraying a King for a year, Booker T had secured a main event spot. But when the King of Kings returned at Summerslam, it was clear who the true King was. Again, a lack of competitiveness in the bout spoke volumes about. Booker didn’t hang around for the trilogy; he soon left for TNA.

Honourable mentions: vs Scott Steiner (2003);

Best Title Run: WWE Champion (January 2000- April 2000)

After defeating The Big Show on an episode of Monday Night Raw, Triple H kicked off a title run that saw him truly cement himself as the best wrestler in North America at the time. His aforementioned feud with Mick Foley was the pinnacle of his reign but he had many more great bouts: a generous performance in a Smackdown battle with Rikishi was a real coming out party for the former Fatu; a Raw title match with The Rock and The Big Show was electric; and while the main event of Wrestlemania 16 was a tad disappointing, his Backlash encounter with The Great One was superb. For four months, this game really was all about Triple H.

Honourable mentions: World Champion (September 2004- April 2005); WWE Champion (April- November 2008)

Worst Title Run: World Heavyweight Champion (December 2002-September 2003)

In these ten months, Triple H didn’t achieve half of what he had managed in four back in 2000. The reign started with an underwhelming win over Shawn Michaels at Armageddon: for a match with ladders and flaming barbed wire bats, it was rather average. His series’ with Steiner and Booker have been documented while a feud with Kevin Nash was ordinary. The Goldberg programme had promise but again never really sparked to life: at Summerslam, big Bill’s coronation was senselessly delayed until the next PPV, with a potentially memorable moment stolen from the masses. The subsequent match at Unforgiven was saddled with a stipulation that telegraphed the finish: should Goldberg lose, he would have to retire. At one point, Hunter even put a cash bounty on Goldberg’s head! Unquestionably, in booking and execution, this whole contest was very 1970s. Indeed, that was the crux of the problem for Hunter here: he had stopped being himself and had instead morphed into a Ric Flair/ Harley Race tribute act. Triple H rose to prominence in the Attitude era; lazily reviving NWA tropes in the noughties wasn’t going to cut it.

Honourable mention: WWE Champion (February- April 2009)

Best Angle: The Return at MSG (7th January 2002: Monday Night Raw)

I was at university in January, 2002 and I remember this night vividly. Our regular Friday night routine was to hit the student union, represent on the dance floor until 2am and then head home, kebab in hand, for the late night/early morning repeat of Raw on Sky Sports. This night, we literally ran home, kebab still in hand, shouting excitedly at passers-by that tonight was the night Triple H was returning! Some people even returned our drunken proclamations with high fives: that’s how over Trips was then!

His return, after 7 months out nursing his blown quad, was truly a momentous moment. His pop, described by some as the loudest sustained cheer in MSG history, served as a reminder of how good he had been in the 18 months prior to his injury. This was Triple H at the height of his powers. And his cut-off denim jacket was as cool as shit.

Honourable mention: Batista turns on Triple H (Monday Night Raw: February 21st 2005)

Worst Angle: The Katie Vick debacle (October 21st 2002: Monday Night Raw)

There have been enough words written over this angle to last a lifetime: a recent Something to Wrestle Podcast addressed this detestable train wreck and it was revealed, to Hunter’s credit, that he at least tried to convince Vince that this was a very bad idea. Of course, his words fell on deaf ears and an attempt to court controversy amongst the mainstream merely bemused his loyal audience. Its best summed up by an exchange that occurred on air between GM Eric Bischoff and Shawn Michaels in December of that year: when Michaels referenced Vick with disdain, Bischoff asked “Does that offend you as a Christian, Shawn?”

Michaels replied: “No Eric. It offends me as a wrestling fan”.

Honourable mention: Triple H breaks JR’s arm (Monday Night Raw:  4th October 1999)

Article by Sean Taylor-Richardson (@GrownManCenaFan)

NXT 278 Review // Aleister Black v Adam Cole

On 14th December, WWE aired its 278th Episode of NXT, filmed at Full Sail University in Winter Gardens, FL on 29th November. The main event of the show once again saw Pro Wrestling Guerilla's slow invasion of NXT as Adam Cole took on Aleister Black for the third spot in the Number One Contender's Fatal Four-Way. The card also featured Women's Champion Ember Moon fighting one half of the Iconic Duo, Peyton Royce, the former Tag Team Champions Authors of Pain taking on the newly formed duo of Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan and current NXT Champion Andrade Almas against Fabian Aichner. But was it any good?

Andrade Almas [La Sombra] def. Fabian Aichner [Adrian Severe] // Pinfall

Almas is straight in with a dropkick, he taunts the crowd who are fully against him, it's almost like you're meant to boo the heels, he walks round into a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker from Aichner, Almas rolls out of the ring, Aichner follows with a springboard sommersault plancha, rolls Almas back in and hits a springboard tornado DDT for a 2, he stomps Almas in the corner till Almas slaps his way out, he runs the ropes but is caught by Aichner, he manages to elbow out but Aichner gets a kick to the gut and a powerbomb for a 2, he climbs to the second rope for a moonsault but is distracted by Vega, ALmas pushes him out of the ring, throws him into the steel steps, rolls him back in and hits the Hammerlock DDT for the pin.

Considering how little time they were given, there was a lot of content here with Aichner once again impressing with his big lad flippy stuff, expect to see more things from him in 2018 as he's too good for NXT to waste. Almas looked every inch the champion here, he won with some help from Vega but he really brings his all to these matches looking as good as anyone can. A thing you're going to hear me write a lot there though, it could have done with more time to really take it to the next level.

Ahead of tonight's main event, we get an Aleister Black package.

SaNItY have promo time ahead of next week's title match. Eric Young talks of restless nights & unfinished business, how WarGames was beautiful but the outcome was not ideal, though sanity have not left the battlefield and next week, they will finish what they started. Then there's some crazy laughing and stuff. 

The Authors Of Pain def. Danny Burch [Martin Stone] & Oney Lorcan [Biff Busick] // Pinfall

Akam and Burch start as Burch prepares to grapple but Akam just pushes him to the corner, Burch uppercuts his way out, Akam pushes him to his corner and Lorcan blind tags as the former CZW Champion comes in and lights up Akam with chops, in comes Rezar but both men get slapped to f*ck by Lorcan, in the centre of the ring, Burch and Lorcan work synchronised running corner chops till a double shoulder tackle from Authors of Pain gets them control, a corner death valley driver, a Super Collider double powerbomb and The Last Chapter clothesline-leg sweep combo finishes off Lorcan for the pin.

This was quick and brutal doing the job of rehabbing AoP in the wake of their loss (though they didn't take the pin) at WarGames. I would have liked more as there were glimpses of what could have been a much better match here. If they actually do another Dusty Classic, I can see Lorcan & Burch having a good run.

We get a recap package from NXT TakeOver: Chicago of Tyler Bate v Pete Dunne II. Next week: Their third televised singles match in WWE as Tyler gets his rematch.

Ember Moon [Athena] def. Peyton Royce // Pinfall

Lock-up to begin and Royce takes down Moon with knees and kicks her on the floor, on her knees and Moon hits a forearm but a kick by Royce, Moon powers out and springboards over Royce, she goes for a roundhouse but Royce catches, she goes for a kick of her own but Moon hits a low rana sending Royce out of the ring, while she recuperates with Kay, Moon hits a plancha onto both women, Moon rolls Royce back in and goes to follow but Kay holds onto her leg till she gets kicked away but it allows Royce a chance to hit a 619 to the back of Moon and lock in a tarantula to send us to the break, back from the break and Royce is maintaining a headlock and hits a low kick on Moon, 'I hate you' says Peyton as she takes a spinning back kick and an enziguri for a 2, back up and Royce rolls up Moon for a 2, a big slap from Moon who goes for a double underhook but Royce escapes, Royce whips Moon to the ropes and on the rebound hits a big striking combination for a 2, she picks up Moon for the Uooohhh bridging suplex but Moon powers to the corner, Royce manages to slip out, posting Moon and clubbing her back, Moon fights back, picking up Royce for a Liger bomb but Royce clings to the ropes, Moon slides out, kicks out the legs, hitting the double stomp and heads back up, hitting the Eclipse twisting top-rope stunner for the pin.

As with the past two matches, there was never any doubt that the champ was taking home a victory here but with such a quick match, it didn't really need to sell that story. What matters here is that both performers had a good showing with Royce continuing to be one of the more underrated in-ring performers on any WWE roster. As always with a loss for the Duo I ask, where do they go from here?

Post-match, the Iconic Duo attacked Moon and beat her down till Nikki Cross made the save, chasing off both of the villainous Aussies before staring suggestively at the title and doing crazy things on the ropes before running away. Now, this could be interesting...

After the Aleister Black package earlier, we get the contractually mandated package for Adam Cole as well.

So you know that mysterious figure last week that we all said was Shayna Baszler? It was Shayna Baszler. She works the scary biker look better than Triple H ever did.

Next week: As well as Dunne v Bate III, The Undisputed Era vs SaNItY with the Tag Titles on the line.

NXT Championship #1 Contender's Tournament Semi-Final // Aleister Black [Tommy End] def. Adam Cole // Pinfall

The last time these two men met one-on-one was at Fight Club: Pro International Tekkers in 2014 when Black defeated Cole but also Black was responsible for defeating both of Cole's stablemates, Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish, in their respective NXT TV debuts, the two lock-up to start as Black transitions to a wristlock, Cole tries to get a sidelock headlock but Black goes to a leglock, they break and go for a second lock-up as Cole gets a snapmare before throwing some taunting slaps at Black's had and going for a taunting 'baybay', he grabs Black into a headlock but Black just tosses him aside, grabbing his arm and while hes in close, laying in knees to the gut and muay thai strikes sending Cole out of the ring before full lotussing into the ad break, back from the break and Cole has Black caught in a crossface but after a while, Black makes it to the ropes as Black breaks just before the count of 5, he stomps out Black, telling him to stay down and asking him if he knows who he is? He's 'Adam Cole BayBay', this was a mistake as we all know Black hates people saying their names and he's up and hits all the different kicks, strikes and knees, in the corner he hits a running forearm and a standing straight leg moonsault, goes for Black Mass but Cole rolls out of the ring, Black goes to the ropes but Cole catches him on them before climbing up top, going for a diving double axe handle Black responds with a roundhouse for a 2, Black lifts his head up with his foot but Cole hits an enziguri and a backstabber for a 2, in a fireman's carry, Black escapes and hits a kick to which Cole responds with a forearm, they trade strikes and Cole hits a big boot and a SUPERKICK but Blac gets a roll-up for a 2, Cole hits the Last Shot for a 2.5, goes for a superkick but caught with a high knee from Black, Cole taunts him, asks him to show him what he's got, turns out what he's got is a Black Mass for the pin.

Another good match that felt a few minutes off being very good. Cole and Black have complimentary styles and manages to work well, transitioning from technical to power moves to just striking the hell out of each other at a moment's notice. I would have liked if the crowd could have been a little less behind Cole as it never felt like he was given a chance to even play the heel. It may have been that coming just a week off the potential modern classic that was Gargano v Ohno that this really had no chance unless it topped that match but this still had enough to make it worth a watch.

On The YouTubes

Yet more Street Talk.

See the inspiring ascent to the title of Ember Moon. It's inspiring, are you inspired? I am.


Every hot streak has to cool off eventually. Whenever NXT tries to do their four or five match shows, it never fully works as with only an hour of full air time including ads, they packed all four matches into less than 20 minutes of that run time so no one match really had the time to impress. Not a bad hour of TV, not a great one either but it was good enough. Though next week with two title matches should be a corker.

Article By Jozef Raczka (@NotJozefRaczka)

Monday, 11 December 2017

NXT 277 Review // Johnny Gargano vs. Kassius Ohno

On 7th December, WWE aired its 277th Episode of NXT, filmed at Full Sail University in Winter Gardens, FL on 29th November. The main event of the show saw Kassius Ohno taking on Johnny Gargano for a spot in the NXT Championship Number One Contender's Fatal Four-Way. The show also featured another qualifier for the aforementioned match in the form of Trent Seven taking on SaNItY's Killian Dain & Ruby Riott taking on Sonia Deville in a No Holds Barred match. But was it any good?

We Open on an announcement from William Regal. Regal says that in light of Drew McIntyre's injuries at TakeOver: WarGames, there will be four singles matches, the winners of those will go on to compete in a Fatal Four-Way for the Number One Contendership to Andrade Almas' NXT Championship. Tonight there'll be Trent Seven vs. Killian Dain & Kassius Ohno vs. a mystery opponent after Velveteen Dream also sustained injuries at WarGames.

Andrade Almas [La Sombra]: A Championship Celebration

Almas and Zelina Vega come to the ring looking like the title has been there's this entire time, Vega says that the audience are all witnesses to the beginning of a historic reign, that we should respect the man, embrace the legend and rise for the for the NXT Champion, this provokes mostly boos but some people rising and chanting 'si' for the champ, Full Sail boos the heels, Almas takes the mic and tells us that he told us he would be champion and now he is, he then says I am the champion half a dozen times, he beat Drew and he hurt Drew, he's sorry for that, he then says a bit in Spanish before reminding that this is NXT that he and Vega are NXT and he is the champion, El Idolo.

While the belt couldn't look more right on Almas' shoulders (except perhaps around his waist, when did that go out of fashion?), it seems a mistake to let Almas take the lead on this promo. He's not the worst, even considering it's his second-language but you have Vega there to act as his manager, let her manage. Still, some solid stuff here and Almas has been so good this year that even if he's a heel, he does deserve it.

Lars Sullivan is interviewed backstage by the litany of floating hands, he's asked about his qualifying match against Roderick Strong, he puts over Strong as a competitor and says that Roddy is really handsome, Lars isn't, Roddy fights for his family, Lars doesn't have a family, he only cares about winning that match and then winning the fatal four-way and winning the NXT title, when asked what winning the title would mean to him, it would prove no one can stop him and when he wins the title, everyone will see that. 

NXT Championship Number One Contender's Tournament Semi-Final // Killian Dain [Damian O'Connor] def. Trent Seven // Pinfall

Trent Seven had a pre-match promo on the YouTubes where he talked about how he won a Battle Royal in order to earn his shot in this match. Killian Dain on the other hand, appears to have earned this match purely by virtue of being a big lad.

This is only the second ever match between the two former ICW Heavyweight Champions with the first, back in April 2016 at ICW Fight Club, ending in a victory for Dain. Trent runs straight in, lighting up Dain with slaps, Dain hits Seven with a forearm and a John Woo dropkick, he keeps Trent grounded with corner stomps before hitting a forearm and a body slam for a 1, locking in a grounded cravat, he keeps down Trent till he can fire back with further slaps, he goes for the Seven Stars Lariat but Dain kicks it away, Trent runs straight into a running crossbody for a 2, back on his feet and Trent gets straight in with a Seven Stars Lariat for a 2, Trent tries to pick up Dain but Dain is too damn big and gets Trent in a fireman's carry of his own, hitting a wasteland, a senton and a Vader bomb for the pin.

This was a fun, little encounter with both men bringing an intensity that you don't often get in these shorter matches. While it was obvious that Dain was going to win as the full-time talent, I don't know whether it was necessary to have Dain kick out of the Seven Stars as it didn't make Dain look significantly better but it may have devalued Seven a little. I am definitely biased as I've made it clear, I don't think you can ever have enough Trent Seven but I'll be interested to see if Dain can step up to the opportunity he's given

The Undisputed Era are backstage, Cole is talking about how he told us that he'd win, this is the episode where everyone loves to say told you so, anyway next week he has a qualifier for the NXT title against Aleister Black and he's noticed Black has been on a tear and the only reason he hasn't lost yet is because he's never faced Cole. Fish and O'Reilly also talk about how next week they want to take a shot at the NXT Tag Team Belts.

No Holds Barred: Sonya Deville [Daria Berenato] def. Ruby Riott [Heidi Lovelace] // Referee Stoppage

So they're really going all-in on this second 'T' in Riot huh? The two women sell the blood feud between them as they run straight for each other with Deville grabbing Riott into a waistlock takedown, she picks her up for a second and hits a gut wrench suplex, Riott gets a quick roll-up but Deville kicks out at 1, Riot hits a big combo throwing a roundhouse and a back kick, a back elbow and a suplex but Deville is straight back up and trapping Riott in the ankle lock, Deville takes advantage of the No Holds Barred rule as Riott crawls to the ropes but there aren't rope breaks, Riott crawls to the top rope and pulls Deville into deadly nightshade sending us to the ad-break, back from the break and Riott has Deville in a seated submission but Deville uses her free arm to gouge Riott's eyes for an escape, Deville hits grounded kicks to the ribs and forearms, Riott manages to knee her way out but from standing, Deville takes her back down with a leaping lariat for a 2, Deville locks Riott in a side triangle, twisting round her arms to keep her from escaping, eventually Riott elbows her way out again and Deville tries for another leaping lariat but Riot catches her with an STO, Riott hits strikes, a forearm, a back elbow and a knee strike, she slides over the ropes, hitting a middle shoulder barge and a slingshot side facebuster for a 2, Deville rolls out of the ring and Riott follows with a crunchy tope suicido onto the ramp, rolling Deville back in, Riott climbs in gingerly and gets caught with a vicious roundhouse and is trapped in a rope-hung triangle choke, passing out to give Deville the win.

This was another excellent match from the two of them and seemingly, their actual farewell match. While it was well-laid out with Deville once again taking advantage of Riott's injured ankle as well as the less restrictive rules of the match stipulation and Riott once again playing the superb fighting-from-underneath babyface, it would be a satisfying next chapter in these two's feud if they were just in NXT but with Deville positioned as one-third of the heel trio up on RAW and Riott as the leader of Smackdown's trio, it seems an odd choice in terms of continuity to have the leader of one beaten by another's underling. It's not even like they have the excuse of having filmed this match before both women were called up as this takes place after. If this is the last we see of these two between the yellow ropes, I wish them both luck up in the big rooms and if they continue to perform like this, I'm sure they'll be great.

Ember Moon is backstage being interviewed about her title win, she says that it is a dream come true and that she wants to take this momentum and be the greatest NXT Women's Champion of all time, up come Peyton Royce and Billie Kay of The Iconic Times to ask her who she actually pinned to win her title, reminding her it was in fact Nikki Cross, Ember can't be bothered to deal with their shit so she asks them which one of them wants a match next week, ignoring the fact that in NXT continuity, Moon pinned Cross but Sane pinned Royce so Sane should have a match first. Anyway, they eventually agree Royce can have a go first.

In two weeks: Tyler Bate gets his WWE UK Championship rematch, just a mere seven months after he lost his title. We see a recap of the WWE UK Championship Tournament Final because even a good episode of NXT needs some padding.

We get a mysterious promo for someone coming 'SOON'. The O's in 'SOON' were stylised like spades so I'm assuming it's Queen of Spades and Mae Young Classic Finalist, Shayna Bazsler.

William Regal meets with Kassius Ohno, presumably to explain to him the updated rules for the War Games match. Everyone must know!

Next Week: Adam Cole v Aleister Black & Ember Moon v Peyton Royce.

NXT Championship Number Contender's Tournament Semi-Final // Johnny Gargano def. Kassius Ohno [Chris Hero] // Submission

Surprisingly, considering how much both men have worked for the same companies, this is only a third-ever time match, having had contests in AAW and Dragon Gate USA with Gargano coming out on top in both prior match-ups. This is one of those matches where the atmosphere is already there before both men have even shook hands, which they do to start us off, they go in for a lock-up but Ohno just throws aside Gargano, they lock-up again and Gargano reminds us once again why he earnt the last name 'wrestling' by transitioning to a hammerlock with Ohno trying to power into a rear headlock but as soon as he can, Gargano is back on the hammerlock, Ohno breaks and the two men run the ropes, flipping over each other and generally being a good pair of wrestle boys, Gargano goes to the ropes and tries to hit an early slingshot spear but Ohno catches him, ties him up in the ropes and slaps his chest tae fuck sending us to the ad-break, back from the break and Ohno is kicking Gargano in the corner, he picks up the former NXT Tag Team Champion into a thunder slap before cravat rolling him into a pair of knee drops, Gargano tries to elbow his way into control but this only serves to make Ohno angrier who nearly kicks his head off for a 2, Ohno goes for a senton but Gargano gets his knees up, the two trade strikes, Ohno goes for a suplex but Gargano escapes, further strikes, Ohno goes for a running boot but can Gargano rana? Yes, Garganocanrana sending ohno out of the ring, Gargano goes to follow but Ohno rolls back in and runs at the ropes straight into a slingshot spear for a 2.9, Gargano tries to keep down the larger Ohno with kicks but Ohno just laughs them off, going for the rolling kick, Ohno ducks the leg, stands up and gets the senton for a 2, giving time for Gargano to get to his feet, Ohno considers showing mercy before hitting a big fucking boot to Gargano's jaw sending him out, Ohno goes to follow, flipping over the ropes, but Gargano slides back in and hits a tope con DDT on the ramp, back in the ring and Gargano hits a step-up enziguri but Ohno immediately responds with a cyclone kick for another 2.9, in the corner, Ohno hits yet more elbows before picking up Gargano into the electric chair, Gargano lays into Ohno's head before victory rolling for a 2.5, to his feet and Gargano rests on the ropes, big mistake as he takes a bicycle kick and a northern lariat for a 2.99, my fucking god, Ohno means business as shown by pulling down his sleeves, Ohno goes for Death By Elbow but Gargano hits him with a SUPERKICK, and another, and a third SUPERKICK PARTY, he runs at Ohno getting a headscissor takedown into the GargaNo Escape and there is indeed no escape for Ohno who taps out, giving Gargano his first televised victory since August.

This was bloody marvellous, when I say this is the best non-TakeOver NXT match of the year, I say so without even a hint of hyperbole. This wasn't a Kassius Ohno match, this was a true Chris Hero match with the big man using his power and striking acumen to bully the smaller man, playing something of a subtle heel in this David vs. Goliath encounter. The layout of the match was simple but like a lot of the best matches this year, it has shown that the simplest and often most effective storytelling that wrestling can employ is that these two men both have the same goal and will come as close to killing each other as needs must in order to get it. While this was a great performance from both men, I do wonder where does this leave Ohno now with two consecutive big losses. Hopefully, the knockout artist's time will come. For now, let's just enjoy this match for what it is, true violent art.

On The YouTubes

The Street Profits have a talk show now. Yup. It is what it is.

Sonia Deville tells Christy St. Cloud that the best part of being on RAW is not having to deal with her. Bit harsh.


NXT has been on a hot streak for a while with a must-see main event match seemingly every week and this edition was no different with all involved delivering, even Killian Dain, a performer I have been traditionally underwhelmed by. While there was some questionable booking to the ending stretches of the first two matches, there's nothing less than enjoyable here and that final match, that fucking final match. Just, if you are reading this and haven't seen it, go watch it, now. What are you waiting for?

Article By Jozef Raczka (@NotJozefRaczka)

The Merch Table // WWE EuroShop // PROGRESS // Smash // ATTACK! // FCP // PBW

Okay, it's the festive period, you know the time we give gifts to each other to say thanks for not being a dick for the last year.

Special mention to James (my Editor) and hope you're recovering mister.

With that in mind, I’m Craig Hermit and it’s my Merch Table to hopefully help or give you a guide on what wrestling merch is around, 

WWE EuroShop

I'm promoted loads of t-shirts and hoodies from WWE, so let's look at this range on sale this week: 

All ornaments are currently priced at £7, except for Charlotte Flair and Alexa Bliss in at the bargain price of £4.

PROGRESS Wrestling

What a year for PROGRESS! And their fans for that matter! Well bring on 2018 with more of this awesome stylish merch.

Price: £15.00

Price £15.00
Sizes: S - 3XL

Price: £28.00
Sizes: S - 2XL

Price: £15.00

Smash Wrestling

Superb merch and great wrestling? Yeah, I'm talking about Smash. To fans in Canada, this promotion always brings great wrestling and are always ones to watch, and merch like this? Nice.

Price: $20.00 – $22.00
Sizes: S - 3XL


Price: $40.00
Sizes: S - 3XL

ATTACK! Pro Wrestling

Fun? Oh yeah. Confusion? Yup. A great night? Definitely.  It's ATTACK! So celebrate the festive period and the fact you lost the raffle with their NEW merch.

Price: £20.00
Sizes: S - 2XL

Price: £15.00

So let's move away from T-shirts and go to the shops to see what figures and things are available from Toys R Us, Argos and A1 Comics.

Toys R Us

WWE Network Spotlight Best of 2002 Figure 5 Pack

Includes Batista, Kevin Nash, Brock Lesnar, Scott Hall and John Cena.
Price: £39.98 

Price: £34.99

Price: £99.99

Price: £19.99

Price: £35.99

Price: £13.99

A1 Toys

Price: £25.99

Price: £20.99

Price: £20.99

Fight Club: Pro

One promotion this year that has been incredible is Fight Club Pro, and their NEW merch is out now.

Price: £40.00
Size: S - 2XL

Price: £20.00
Size: S - 2XL

PBW Wrestling

This year PBW has released some excellent merch, whether you are heading to the gym or heading to a training session, go there in style.

Price: £16.00
Sizes: S - 2XL

Price: £40.00
Size: XS - 2XL

Price: £28.00
Size: XS - 2XL


Price: £25.00

And that's us for this year, hope you have a great festive period, remember be nice to the teams in retail, this is the worst times for them, but have an awesome time. My name's was Craig Hermit until next year.