Dear Pro Wrestling Gods,
Why have you forsaken wrestling fans and taken away what could have been one of the great summers in the history of the business?
We just got CM Punk back, and for AEW this was supposed to be the third Summer of Punk, like one we had never seen before. Yes, we finally got to see Jon Moxley vs. Hiroshi Tanhashi at “Forbidden Door,” but you had to give Punk a foot injury? Didn’t you hear fans chanting his name for all these years and know how much this meant to them?
You took Cody Rhodes away, too – maybe for nine months, maybe less – but gone nonetheless. Yes, his match against Seth Rollins with a torn pec was an instant classic at “Hell in a Cell” and he could be back in time to win the “Royal Rumble” and still beat Roman Reigns at WrestleMania to become Undisputed WWE Universal champion — unless you want to be nice enough to bring The Rock back instead.
For now, you robbed fans of seeing Rhodes at Money in the Bank after WWE put his face on that nice truck driving around Las Vegas and took him away from us at SummerSlam, too. Think of all the moments and matches that were to be had as he finally got the ball from WWE to run with.
Randy Orton? He was on one of the best runs of his career, opening up to the fans and getting huge babyface reactions. Instead of likely getting him versus Reigns at SummerSlam fans have to settle for act nine million between the Tribal Chief and Brock Lesnar. That’s how you tried to make up for it? Orton will likely be out the rest of 2022 with a back injury, so who knows if Reigns will even have the title by the time he returns.
And really, hasn’t Bryan Danielson suffered enough? Not only didn’t fans get a chance to see him put on a technical masterpiece with Zack Sabre Jr. at “Forbidden Door” but they also won’t get him unleashing violence at “Blood and Guts” either. I know it led to Claudio Castagnoli coming to AEW earlier than planed, but please bring Danielson back soon.
WWE was finally, finally going to give fans a Rhea Ripley vs. Bianca Belair match at “Money in the Bank,” but you went and got Ripley, too, when her knee ricocheted back into her mouth during a match on Raw. So now we get Belair against Carmella yet again. We all know how that will end. Yes, I know Ripley may not be out long, but still? And yes, I know, John Cena’s back, but that’s not the point.
You even knocked out Tomohiro Ishii (injury) and Hiromu Takahashi (fever) right before “Forbidden Door” and Adam Cole got injured further at the event. When does it end? Oh, and don’t think fans have forgotten about Big E and Kenny Omega — Big E would have been perfect to fill WWE’s current babyface void and having “Forbidden Door” without the former IWGP heavyweight champion just didn’t feel right.
This summer certainly isn’t what it could have been — and I won’t even get into the allegations against Vince McMahon, another DUI arrest for Jeff Hardy and, to a lesser extent, Sasha Banks and Naomi getting suspended for their walkout.
But there is still time to make up for it.
Bring Bayley back as soon as she’s ready – hopefully for “SummerSlam.” Have Seth Rollins win “Money in the Bank” and hold it over Reigns’ head all summer. Take care of Drew McInytre so he faces Reigns at “Clash at the Castle” in Cardiff. Bring CM Punk back for “All Out” so he can finally get his match against Moxley. How about one more match between the Young Bucks and FTR for all four tag titles, maybe an Ironman or ladder match? Get Rhodes back ahead of schedule and keep Goldberg far away. Leave Jungle Boy and Christian Cage alone, too if you can — though there is talk Jungle Boy is dealing with a shoulder injury. Let MJF’s story play out as compellingly as everyone believes it can.
Oh, and one more thing: Can Johnny Gargano and Bray Wyatt come back? That’s not asking too much after what you have put fans though.
Pro Wrestling Fans
Christian Cage is doing exactly what he said he came back not to do — doing it masterfully – and delivering the level of story AEW really, really needs right now. He delivered a blistering promo on “Dynamite” last week explaining why he turned on protégé Jungle Boy. During it, he sounded like a money-hungry, entitled veteran and stated he wasn’t back to put over young talent and help out the next generation — while actually doing so.
It was Heel 101 and a reminder Christian feels less like a sidekick and more like a movie alpha villain. He used Jungle Boy eliminating him from a battle royale and how it cost him a “roster bonus” as the trivial reason for his betrayal, which AEW did tease before. It, of course, came after Jurassic Express lost the AEW tag titles and he could no longer ride the team’s coattails. Cage then went nuclear, invoking Jungle Boy’s real father, late actor Luke Perry, just to make sure the audience hates his guts enough that their feud can actually help Jungle Boy and finally fuel his big singles run. The line about Perry being dead wasn’t needed, but it served its purpose. Cage’s phony hug seemingly winning over Luchasaurus was brilliant. It left you wondering, will the big dinosaur get stuck in the middle of this feud – at least for a little while?
Also, Cage made a passing reference to MJF, saying he was going to give free advice to “other people out here complaining about their paycheck.” He noted that until you have matches people talk about for more than a week you aren’t on his paygrade, so “until then eat my crumbs and enjoy it.”
He then went back to addressing Jungle Boy as if the aside is over. MJF’s biggest gripe is ex-WWE guys making more money than him. Cage could fit the bill as a foil and if you want to lean MJF babyface, either by attacking Cage or helping Jungle Boy defeat him could do it.
The fact Cage may have set up two huge feuds in one promo could make it ever more remarkable than it already is on the surface.
Celebrating Cena — minus two
John Cena’s return to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his WWE debut brought with it many things. There was another TV appearance by Vince McMahon to introduce him, a sad Becky Lynch clap, AEW stars getting to pay tribute to him, an emotional speech thanking fans from Cena himself and potential groundwork laid for two feuds if and when he should decide to return to in ring action.
Theory, a lifelong Cena fan who has been speculated to be getting his dream match at SummerSlam, delivered a convincing, emotional and arrogant tongue-lashing of his hero – who left before he could take a selfie and didn’t get a word in. If you had any questions about if Theory could be a main eventer, he absolutely felt like he belonged with Cena in that moment. With Theory still needing to beat Bobby Lashley at Money in the Bank to retain the U.S. title, it felt too early to launch a full Cena-Theory feud. If WWE wants to hold off a little longer on that, it had Seth Rollins also talk with Cena backstage to remind him of how be busted his nose up in 2015. That could be a fun feud to hold over Rollins for either Rhodes or Reigns.
The 10 Count
Natalya impersonating Ronda Rousey and rolling out a stroller was a good departure from what we normally see from her. Rousey’s promo was OK and at least felt a little biting with references to Nattie and her sister’s more provocative social media photos and the Hart family member’s lack of being a main eventer all these years. Despite the efforts, this feud feels less than — as expected — especially since the sharpshooter isn’t treated with enough disrespect by WWE over the year as more people have escaped Natalya’s than gotten beaten by it.
Wes Lee really does have a chance to be a babyface the crowd embraces in NXT. We already know what he can do in the ring and his emotional and reality-based promo last week was a huge step in the right direction for him.
Memo to Tony Khan, not every AEW women’s singles match needs to include heels coming in to beat up the victorious babyface and then have another babyface running in for the save. The division deserves better.
This is the best the Vikings Raiders have been presented in a long time. But knowing WWE, they will be subject to some terrible 50/50 booking and spoil all their momentum.
Sami Zayn, who continues to be must-see TV, has now become an interesting wild-card in the men’s Money in the Bank match. Him, Riddle and Seth Rollins are the three most intriguing potential winner.
The field for the women’s Money in the Banks match is as good as it can get. Everyone feels like a threat, there is a good chance it will make a new star or get Alexa Bliss back in the main event picture. There is no bad winner here, except for maybe Becky Lynch. But there was no way not to include her.
Santos Escobar costing Tony D’Angelo the NXT North American championship — who saw that coming? How they break up to the two families should be interesting.
It’s hard not to root for and be a bigger fan of Jon Moxley after reading and listening about what he went through to get sober during his battle with alcohol addiction.
I was not expecting a video interview with Cody Rhodes to preview the Money in the Banks and was even more surprised we didn’t get a countdown clock to it. It feels like WWE is trying to keep Rhodes-Rollins alive anyway possible.
Kazuchika Okada continuing to steal Nick Jackson’s gear at shows — even after a three-year absence — remains one of the funniest and most endearing stories of the weekend. That along with The Rainmaker telling Khan he is a Manchester City fan 18 times and that he is the AEW person he wants to be wrestling is such interesting look into the big kid behind the all-world performer we see.
Wrestler of the Week
Orange Cassidy, All Elite Wrestling
It had been four months since we watched Cassidy wrestle a singles match on TV. What he delivered with Will Ospreay at Forbidden Door was a reminder of why he was on the rising star trajectory in AEW at one point. Cassidy, though he did lose, had arguably the best match of the night and showed his massive potential as a crowd favorite due to his mix of unique character work and ability to downright bring it in the ring.
Match to Watch
The Jericho Appreciation Society vs. Blackpool Combat Club, Eddie Kingston, Santana, and Ortiz, AEW Dynamite (Wednesday, 8 p.m., TBS)
We have already seen these two teams compete in the chaotic, bloody and violent Anarchy in the Arena match. So how do you top that? There are at least new faces added for this second-ever Blood and Guts match as Sammy Guevara has joined the JAS side and Claudio Castagnoli on the other as these teams enter the double cage. Chris Jericho and his crew won Anarchy in the Arena, so it will be interesting to see if AEW doubles down. How bitter rivals Castagnoli and Eddie Kingston interact will be something to keep an eye on. This is one of the most violent match types AEW offers and is likely the blow-off to this feud so these teams can go their separate ways for “All Out.”
Around The Ring
- Mark Calaway will be doing a one-man show SummerSlam week. “Undertaker 1 deadMAN Show” will debut at July 29 at Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville. It will feature The Undertaker in an intimate setting, sharing never-before-heard stories from his career and taking questions from those in attendance. Tickets go on sale June 28.
- AEW announced dates for two major shows: “Dynamite: Grand Slam” will be Sept. 21 at Arthur Ashe Stadium and Ring of Honor’s “Death Before Dishonor” will be July 23 at Tsongas Center in Lowell, Mass.
- The Ric Flair “Last Match” card added three matches — highlighted by Josh Alexander defending the Impact World Championship against former MLW champion Jacob Fatu.
- MLW announced a partnership with Boss Fight Studios to produce a new line of action figures and some playable sets.