Home OPINION Loved, Liked & Loathed: New Year, But Old Gimmicks

Loved, Liked & Loathed: New Year, But Old Gimmicks

by Art Middleton
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As a long (long, really long) time wrestling fan, I am very much used to gimmicks being recycled and old stars brought back to TV in an effort to draw eyes to their product, and I understand why it’s done… but it doesn’t mean I have to like it when it happens. This past week we got multiple instances of both WWE and AEW leaning on the past to try and get fans to notice in the present, with varying levels of success.

Loathed: The Word “Legend” Is Thrown Around Way Too Much These Days

I know it probably would have been a little out of place in the very high tech, LED board laden ThunderDome, but I don’t understand why WWE didn’t just go with a “Raw Retro” theme for their first show, break out some fun old-school graphics and still have past WWE stars make their appearances like they did on Monday without the cringe worthy title of “legends.” I say the following with no disrespect meant at all to the likes of Melina or Tatanka, but “legend” isn’t one of the first of five words that comes to mind when describing their careers.

And for the ones who you could have made an argument to apply the ‘legend’ tag to, there still was some disappointment. Mark Henry’s appearance on the show with leg propped up in a scooter with very little context given as to why, just made me feel sorry for him instead of remember that he was an ass-kicking monster. Seeing Micky James there as a ‘legend’ just made me wonder if she in fact retired and if she did, why she wasn’t given a bigger send off. Torrie Wilson just reminded me of her father Al, which brought back a period of my wrestling life I keep trying to suppress with the rest of my darkest memories.

Of course, there was Hulk Hogan. It was hard not to think that the whole legends night theme was just an excuse to put Hogan on our TV screens. Right now the safest times right now for WWE to trot out ol’ Hulkster is when they are A: in Saudi Arabia, or B: in an arena where they can pipe in crowd noise and fake cheers. The less time spent talking about him, the better, although I will ask if I am reading far too much into the fact that Hulk gladly talked up Drew and Sheamus, but couldn’t seem to be bothered to give a bit of a pep talk as well to Keith Lee.

And that brings us to Goldberg.

Look, on the positive side, I don’t think we can any longer debate on if Goldberg loves wrestling like we all maybe have in years past. He’s 64 years old, still keeps himself in amazing shape, and even if his motivations are tied to performing for his son, by all accounts seems to be having a blast out there when he’s in the ring.

But I’ve spent the last week trying to figure out in my head how a match versus Goldberg helps Drew McIntyre at all in 2021 and I don’t think it can. Drew has really had some solid matches this year – his match against Keith Lee on Monday was fantastic – and now he’s going to have one against a guy who can’t go more than maybe five minutes in the ring without being completely blown up?

It didn’t help that the set up between Drew and Goldberg felt crammed in and rushed for time right at the end of RAW. Maybe the next week or two can help fill this story out a bit, but right now it just feels like a throwaway story during a time where maybe they could have drawn out the Drew / Lee story a bit more, or maybe set up T-Bar of Retribution as someone targeting Drew…

Which brings me to one lone really bright spot from Monday night…

Loved: Let Ali Walk the Path

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

It’s a shame this was kind of ‘hidden’ on the Network and not a promo cut on actual Raw TV.

Also at some point I am going to talk more at length about this, but both Raw and Smackdown’s “post-game shows” almost weekly have fantastic promos and segments that really let personalities shine in a way they just don’t on TV. Take the interaction between Paul Heyman and Apollo Crews on “Talking Smack”…

I got absolute chills from Paul being the master orator that he is, and Crews – for maybe the first time ever in his entire WWE run – looking legit pissed off about something.

But I keep thinking… “Why isn’t any of this on our TV proper?” I feel like this is the kind of story telling and emotions fans would love to see.

Liked (But Tentatively): OMG, Team Ammunition is back!

Over in AEW, they finally crossed over some Impact wrestling talent to show up on Dynamite, and wouldn’t ya know it they brought Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson to the show that most fans wanted them to head to this past summer. Then with a bunch of winks and nods and a well known hand gesture, they got together with Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks and reunited that group they had in Japan.

I won’t lie and say that I didn’t smile at the visual of all five men together in the ring, but when I first had thoughts of what an AEW / Impact cross-branding could lead to, the reformation of Bullet Club was maybe item 7 or 8 on the list of things I looked forward to seeing.

I do very much appreciated the Bucks somewhat reluctance to join in on the seemingly impromptu reunion, and feel like that could lead to something down the road. Gallows and Anderson are invaders with a rival company after all, and it while I can detach the idea of Kenny Omega having a hand in running AEW while being the performer trying to undercut AEW on TV and being “The Collector”, I don’t want the whole main event scene to be “Team Ammunition taking over AEW.”

Loved: The Best Damn Entrance In All Of Pro Wrestling

Brilliant!

Also, Jericho popping at the mention of Winnipeg also popped me.

Liked: Always Golden

It doesn’t feel right to go on about an entire week of wrestling and not mention New Japan’s biggest show(s) of the year, but I haven’t been able to sit down and watch Wrestle Kingdom 15 yet (hopefully sometime this coming week – the guys talked about it a bit on yesterday’s Sunday Brunch, so be sure to check that out on our YouTube channel), so I can’t give any opinions about it in any way.

I do know what happened though and I will say that Kota Ibushi has well earned his championship spot and it gives me hope that we see another AEW cross-promotion in the near future?

Loved: More KOR Please!

If you’re going to pick one guy to be a breakout star in 2021, Kyle O’Reilly should be on your short list of candidates.

I’m trying to remind myself that his matches against Finn Balor are in fact against one of the best in the world right now, and it would be likely impossible for a broomstick to have anything less than a four-star match against Balor, but KOR deserves a ton of credit himself for looking like he belongs as a fixture in NXT’s main event scene going forward.

I don’t know what ‘singles star’ Kyle O’Reilly means for the future of his tag team with Bobby Fish, or his status with Undisputed Era, but maybe at some point later this year, the UE can turn on Kyle and then Kyle can embark on a year long quest for revenge where he goes through each member until he gets to have his day with Adam Cole.

In short, fans should be excited to see more from Kyle O’Reilly in 2021.

Loved: More Raquel González Please!

If you’re going to pick one gal to be a breakout star in 2021, Raquel González should be on your short list of candidates.

Apparently WWE has been said to have “big plans” for Raquel, and as well they should. Those plans should be for her to be next in line for a run with NXT’s Women’s Title, have a string of tough but successful defenses, then move on to the main roster where she will first confront Charlotte Flair and give her an NXT title match, which will set her up for…

… What do you mean “that didn’t work out well the last time they tried it?”

On a related note: I’m not sure what WWE does with Rhea Ripley now. Not that she looked bad in her loss to Gonzalez, but now WWE needs to do right by her and give her a series of wins to remind everyone of how dominant she could be.

But as for Raquel, if it were up to me, I’d be getting her into a program with Io Sharai asap.

Loved: That Damn Roman Reigns

I practically gush right now when I talk about the work Roman Reigns is doing on Smackdown, it’s been just so damn good.

It’s not because he’s putting on great matches, because whether fans wanted to admit it or not, he has always been really good in the ring. It’s not because his promos are really good right now, because he’s always been decent on the mic (forced scripts and failed “sufferin’ succotash” one-liner promos excluded)

What has me so hooked on this heel run of his, is the fact that Roman Reigns is two steps ahead of his opponents and getting the better of them by thinking ahead which makes for the most dangerous villain one can have.

He can’t just beat the crap out of Adam Pierce like it seemed he was about to at the start of Smackdown, but he could in a match. Of course Adam Pierce would never agree to a match – he said it himself, he is six years removed from activity – but what if he was forced into one?

I don’t expect a Reigns / Pierce match – if that is indeed what we’re getting at the Royal Rumble – to go overly long or be any kind of classic. In that way it’s going to be a lot like a possible Drew McIntyre / Goldberg match, but unlike the Raw championship match Smackdown’s main title match should be a stepping stone towards a different program…

Over the last month or so, Roman and his Bloodline have piled up a list of enemies. Kevin Owens, Daniel Bryan, now Shinsuke Nakamara and by extension his tag partner Cesaro. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see one or more of them factor into this story at some point.

That by the way is the difference when saying that a Drew/Goldberg match is unwelcome but a Roman/Pierce match is. The former – unless WWE has an ace up its sleeve – feels like a one-off wasted feud being used to beg for attention, the latter is clearly a set up for something bigger, or at the very least a continuation of a very good story being told.

At any rate, I am all-in and hooked on Roman being this powerful, confident yet extra slimy heel who could just straight up beat the crap out of people as he has always done, but will instead resort to letting his cousin do all the dirty work, use handcuffs to win cage matches and set up a title defense against a middle management suit who even Michael Cole rather hilariously pointed out “wasn’t ever good enough to make it to WWE.”


Have a moment from the past week that you loved, like or loathed? Leave a comment below, or hit us up on our Facebook or Twitter pages. Your comments could make a future LL&L post!

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