Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Wrestling bad guys are usually right

The Miz is talking smack...
Courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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The recent war of words between SmackDown Live General Manager Daniel Bryan and Intercontinental Champion The Miz has been thought provoking. The confrontation started on a recent edition of Talking Smack. The Miz called out Bryan after the former Superstar insulted The Miz's "style" of wrestling. The tirade that followed forced Bryan to get up and leave the set. Since the incident there has been speculation that this is going to set up Bryan's return to the ring. I'll save my thoughts on that for another time, the focus of this post is about how many times the bad guys of the ring are right on the money with their comments.

The Miz
Courtesy: WWE
Miz told Bryan and the fans that he wrestles "soft" because he doesn't want to get hurt. He says over the course of his 10 year career he's never been out injured. Bryan of course was forced to retire recently at the age of 35. While it wasn't something I wanted to hear as a huge fan of Bryan's, the Miz really did hit the nail on the head with his statements. 

Bryan in action
Courtesy: WWE
Bryan went balls to the wall during his time in the ring. That style ended up taking years off his career. Fans were entertained. We all cheered things like "This is awesome!" when watching Bryan in action. But the bottom line is that intense style took him out of the game way too early. Chalk one up for the Miz. I worry about others who wrestle that similar style and the longevity of their careers.

Punk tells it like it is
Courtesy: WWE
When CM Punk was feuding with Jeff Hardy, Punk was touting a straight edge lifestyle. He told fans to avoid the dangers of drugs and alcohol and called out Hardy for not following that advice. But for whatever reason Punk was the bad guy in doing that. It's HOW Punk talked about being straight edge is what drove fans crazy. He looked down his nose at Hardy for his alleged "demons". But telling fans drugs are bad is the right message, isn't it? Who can forget these ads.... 


I was in the 8th grade when Andre the Giant turned against Hulk Hogan and demanded a match at WrestleMania III. Jesse Ventura was the one who motivated Andre to request the title match. At that time I thought it was the biggest act of blasphemy I'd seen in my short time as a wrestling fan. But as I got older I understood Andre's point of view. Just because he and Hogan were friends shouldn't have prevented him from having a championship match. After all, the Eighth Wonder of the World was undefeated. Hogan should have been happy to give his friend a shot. But when Hulkster refused, Andre had to get the help of Bobby Heenan to secure a championship match.

Andre challenges Hogan
Courtesy: WWE
These are just a few examples of when the bad guys had better judgment than their goody two-shoes counterparts. Who are your favorite bad guys who did the right thing?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

I'm more than OK with KO

KO is the champ
Courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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Kevin Owens is the new WWE Universal Champion. With some help from Triple H, KO pinned Seth Rollins to win the red and gold belt. The victory is exactly what I've been hoping for since Owens was called up to the main roster last year. His series of matches with John Cena proved he was ready for the big time, although I've been a fan for years.

Pedigree
Courtesy: WWE

The interesting tie-in is Triple H. Were his actions to support Owens or more to get at Rollins? I'm curious to see what's next and don't want to speculate too much. I don't think Triple H and KO are going to be allies, at least I don't think there's going to be a rebirth of the Authority. I hope not anyway. Although I did entertain the idea of Triple H serving as a manager, but from a storyline standpoint it doesn't really make sense at this time. Plus Triple H has at least a few more WrestleMania matches in him.

Courtesy: WWE
What I do hope is that Owens holds on to the belt and takes it into WrestleMania while the company grooms the next big contender. Depending on the healing process, Finn Balor could very well be ready by Mania in Orlando. Imagine two former NXT champions battling it out for the Universal Championship on the grandest stage of all. The story writes itself. 

But I said I wouldn't speculate. I'm going to enjoy the ride. I want to hear from you. We'll discuss the matter in greater detail during 3-Count on Facebook Live Thursday at noon CST.


Monday, August 29, 2016

5 things I loved about Mr. Fuji


Fuji & Demolition
Courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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Over the weekend WWE Hall of Famer Mr. Fuji died. By the time I started watching wrestling in late 1983, Fuji had transitioned from wrestler to manager, though he still had a few matches against good guys like Roddy Piper, Ricky Steamboat and his former tag team of Demolition. While "the Devious One" had a great career in the ring, holding the WWF tag team titles a couple of times, I will remember him as a constant force on the outside of the ring. His managerial career in the WWF outlasted others from that era like Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, Slick and Jimmy Hart.

So I've decided to do a tribute here today with five of my favorite Mr. Fuji moments. He managed many men during his tenure, so narrowing it down to five was tough. (These aren't in any particular order.)

Helping Yokozuna win
Courtesy: WWE
1. His constant "a-salt" on opponents. Mr. Fuji became synonymous with tossing salt into the eyes of his foes in the ring. That act continued as a manager. He "blinded" everyone from Hulk Hogan to Ricky Steamboat to Bret Hart. In fact that act of malice cost Hart the WWF World Championship at WrestleMania IX and Fuji's huge henchman Yokozuna won the gold. But the title run lasted mere moments when Fuji challenged Hogan on the spot and his salt toss backfired and Yoko got the treatment. 


2. He was a sharp dressed manager. For most of his time as a manager, Mr. Fuji wore a black tuxedo, bowler and carried a cane. That looked also lead to an interesting tuxedo match against Hillbilly Jim, in which both men are in tuxes, and the man stripped down to his underwear first loses. Watch the clip above. Eventually when he began managing Yokozuna, he wore a traditional kimono and carried the Japanese flag.

The cane about to go into action
Courtesy: WWE
3. His "cane-do" attitude. Mr. Fuji's cane often became a weapon of mass destruction when his men needed it the most. That cane was used to bring Demolition the WWF Tag Team Titles against Strike Force at WrestleMania IV.  Dozens of good guys left the ring with an imprint of that cane on their back, head or abdomen.

4. He was the king of the low blow. Fuji used to set up his opponents for the ultimate low blow, a head butt to the crouch. It hurts me to just type this one out.



5. He and the Magnificent Muraco put Crockett and Tubbs to shame. The manager-wrestler duo did a spoof of Miami Vice on Tuesday Night Titans called Fuji Vice. It was a a fun segment to capitalize on the popularity of the crime show and give it a wrestling twist. Again, watch the above clip.

These are just a few of the many accomplishments Mr. Fuji made during his long career. I'd be remiss to not mention him during on Demolition during the 1988 Survivor Series and joining forces with the Powers of Pain. Rest in peace Mr. Fuji. You will be missed.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

We don't need to know

Real or fake?
Shoot or work?
Courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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Wrestling News BI: Before Internet
I've been a wrestling fan for more than 30 years. During my youth and even most of my college days the primary source of wrestling news was through the "Apter magazines." Each month I'd buy Pro Wrestling Illustrated, The Wrestler and Inside Wrestling and check out the news features in the front of each issue. Of course the details were dated by then, but it was the only way I knew how to stay informed. I'd never heard of Dave Meltzer at the time.


Then in 1995 something magical happened. The internet was born and I spent hours every day on a site called rec.sport.pro-wrestling. It wasn't even a traditional website, but a message board with posts on news and other topics by wrestling fans and presumably insiders. I became obsessed with it, wanting to know what was happening because in college I wasn't always able to watch the weekly wrestling shows and DVR was still years away.

Glad this was never spoiled
Courtesy: WWE
Now you get spoilers without even looking for them. Some members of the Internet Wrestling Community seem compelled to post who's backstage at Raw or who was spotted at the airport in the city of the night's big pay per view. No one wants to be surprised anymore. I don't want to know these things. I like being surprised. That's what made the early years of wrestling so much fun to me. Bobby Heenan pulling out Ric Flair's WCW big gold belt on WWF programming is still one of the most shocking things I ever saw. It was special because no one tweeted it or blogged that Ric Flair was coming to the WWF.

Courtesy: WWE
Recently on Talking Smack on the WWE Network, the Miz and Daniel Bryan had a heated debate. Fans are still speculating whether it was real or fake. Does it matter? Can't we just sit back and be entertained without trying to figure out these things? Over the last couple of years WWE has done a great job of blurring the lines between reality and storylines to make fans wonder. I said during a recent Facebook Live, I like when my predictions are wrong because it means WWE is staying a step ahead of the fans. 

We all need to just take more time enjoying the product and less time trying to figure out what's real or not. Do you like spoilers? Do you have to know if everything is "part of the show"? Let me know here or on Facebook.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Laying the smackdown on tag team wrestling

Chad & Kevin meeting the Headbangers in 2012
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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Before reading any further, you should know this post may contain a spoiler for Tuesday's upcoming SmackDown Live! show. 

Tag team titles
Courtesy: WWE
Since the recent brand split with WWE, it's been announced that SmackDown Live will soon have a new Women's Champion and Tag Team Champions. When Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon made that announcement and Heath Slater interrupted it, there were only six teams announced for the tournament. Bryan told Slater if he could find a partner his team would be entered, which means seven teams. To round things out SmackDown Live needs an eighth tandem. 

I figured they'd piecemeal another team with a couple of single Superstars like Slater and his partner Rhyno or they'd enter Erik Rowan and Bray Wyatt in as the Wyatt Family. But with Bray focusing on Randy Orton, it makes sense to leave the Wyatts out.

The Headbangers
Courtesy: WWE
Word on the street is that former WWE Tag Team Champions The Headbangers are headed to the blue brand, at least for one night. In a post that has since been deleted, Mosh tweeted he and his partner Thrasher were headed to Dallas for Tuesday's show. I don't know if this is a one off to put over Rhyno and Slater or if the Headbangers are back. Seven teams on a regular basis can make a decent division, assuming the injuries and suspensions don't impact the respective Superstars.

Either way, I'm on board with the Headbangers coming back. I thought they were good workers during their time in WWF/E.  A return is no different from when Billy Gunn and Road Dogg reunited a couple years ago and the New Age Outlaws won the titles. I don't expect (or want) any returning Superstars to end up with gold, but having them back on TV and in the limelight for a bit is nice.

Future champs?
Courtesy: WWE
Many fans are probably backing American Alpha (and I'm sure they're destined to win the belts soon), but I think Slater and Rhyno are going to win it all.

Friday, August 26, 2016

How I became a real life Milk Dud

Milk Dud 

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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After nearly 20 years in journalism, I've had chance to interview a Vice Presidential candidate, cover both the President and Vice President and interview countless governors and lawmakers. But along with the "hard" news comes fun times. The most recent was a trip to the Du Quoin State Fair for the first ever Moo Moo Classic.

Moo Moo Classic participants
My coanchor on News 3 This Morning on WSIL, Callie Carroll and I were invited to join radio personalities Critter and Wes Bennett from Withers Broadcasting and Lia & Jon E. from WCIL (River Radio) as well as State Representative Terri Bryant and fair managers Tibretta Reiman and Kevin Gordon in the competition. Each of us took a turn milking a cow for three minutes. No bucket though, we were only given a styrofoam cup to collect the milk.

Fourth place
Other than milking a model cow at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, I'd never touched an udder before. I think I got enough milk to serve as creamer for a cup of coffee. Callie got about the same amount. Meanwhile Tibretta needed a second cup and Critter's cup was more than half full. Long story short, we didn't stand a chance. We finished fourth (of four) and took home the COWsolation prize, a bag of Cow Tails candy. Really though our performance as one person put it was worthy of Milk Duds.

But it was a fun event and we had a good time. It's a great way to kick of the 2016 Du Quoin State Fair. Now give me a funnel cake.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The great chip debate



By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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There's been a debate of sorts developing in our home. It came up at the dinner table recently. No, not Clinton or Trump or the Cards versus the Cubs. Instead it's a battle over tortilla chips. Yeah you read that right. 

The dip
It started after I made a batch of creamy salsa tip. It's easy enough, take a jar of salsa and blend it with a brick of cream cheese. It's awesome. But while eating the dip with my wife's favorite chips, Tostitos Cantina Thin and Crispy. I don't dislike these chips, but because of the thickness of dip, I prefer to eat it with my favorite: On the Border Cafe Style. The chips are thick and very tasty too. They can stand up to any dip they're up against. Our daughter sides with my wife, while our middle son is on Team OTB. Our oldest wasn't home for dinner to weigh in on this crucial debate.

I've loved On the Border chips for years now. It's my preferred tortilla chip when having Mexican night at dinner. But I will say the Tostitos Cantina chips are good too. I will crumble them up and mix them with beans, turkey and cheese and eat the combo with a fork.

How about you? What's your favorite tortilla chip for dipping? 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

After SummerSlam I'm now an AJ Styles guy

Courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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Not that I wasn't a fan of AJ Styles prior to SummerSlam, but his match with John Cena sealed the deal for me. I don't know a whole lot about his past, I only watched him casually on TNA and when he was in New Japan I saw even less of the Phenomenal One.

When AJ entered the 2016 Royal Rumble, I'll admit I was happy to see him. I wondered though if he'd end up heading to NXT or becoming a part of the main roster. His feud with Chris Jericho was less than I had hoped for and the loss at WrestleMania honestly made me scratch my head in disbelief. I knew he wouldn't unseat Roman Reigns as WWE World Champion, but he brought out the best in the champ. 

Courtesy: WWE
His feud with the returning John Cena was just what AJ needed to take things to the next level. The first victory was tainted when The Club interfered, but the match at SummerSlam was on point. It was my favorite match of the night. The two told an amazing story and I believe the clean pin over "the face that runs the place" made AJ a legitimate WWE Superstar. He's not just a guy from TNA trying to make a name for himself.

Courtesy: WWE
Now to SmackDown Live and the cockiness carried over because he "beat up John Cena." It was brilliant and beating Dolph Ziggler to firmly secure sole possession of the number one contendership is the right move. AJ Styles will be WWE World Champion before the end of 2016. 

Don't get me wrong, I love Dean Ambrose as champion, but the next chapter for AJ has to be a run with the belt. Six months ago I wasn't so sure about that, but now I'm convinced. Speculation has already started that Cena gets his redemption at Mania in April, adding the title into the program makes things all the more interesting.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Shouldering the blame


Giving up the gold
Courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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Even though professional wrestling is scripted, the action is quite real. Yesterday I shared a post about the WWE Superstars injured while in action over SummerSlam weekend. The worst of those injures as we know now is Finn Balor. Less than 24 hours after winning the first WWE Universal Championship, the Demon King had to relinquish the belt.


Point of impact
Courtesy: WWE
Early in the match against Seth Rollins, Balor suffered a dislocated shoulder. It's after Rollins performed a running powerbomb on Balor and tossed him into the ringside barricade. You can see the exact moment, but little did fans know at the time that blow would put Balor out of action for potentially six months. 

Courtesy: WWE
Within seconds of the announcement, many fans blamed Rollins for the accident. But if you look closely at the replay, Balor's body doesn't seem to be positioned right before the blow. I've only wrestled once and it was a low bumping affair, so I don't know how Finn was supposed to actually hit. Despite other injuries seemingly at the hands of Rollins (Sting and John Cena), I still chalk this up to an unfortunate accident. 

Courtesy: WWE
It's unfortunate for a number of reasons. Balor has finally reached the promise land after years of toiling around the world. His championship victory was historic because Balor is the first Universal Champion. He's also (according to Michael Cole and I think he's right) the first WWE Superstar to win the world title (or it's equivalent) in a pay per view debut.

Here's to hoping for a speedy recovery and another shot at redemption when he returns. How cool would it be to see Balor return at WrestleMania 33 in Orlando? It'll be very close to the six months mark. But whatever happens, I hope the Demon King is back stronger than ever before. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

SummerSlam injury updates

Lesnar draws blood
Courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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SummerSlam weekend was a brutal one for many Superstars. Some may have long term effects on the current storylines in play.

Joe gets medical attention
Courtesy: WWE
Samoa Joe suffered a dislocated jaw during his NXT Championship loss to Nakamura at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn II Saturday night. The injury happened after two Kinshasas to the now former champion. Joe says his jaw was set back in place shortly after the match. He should be cleared to wrestle again in the near future.

Sasha gets dropped
Sasha Banks took a beating en route to losing the WWE Women's Championship. Reports online state she had some nagging injuries prior to her defense against Charolette and was planning to take time off to allow for healing. That's why she dropped the title so quickly. No word if she was further injured during the championship match at SummerSlam.

Brutalizing Randy Orton
Courtesy: WWE

Randy Orton now has 10 staples in his head after the brutal beating he received from Brock Lesnar. The Beast went nuts and knocked out the former champ with a couple of vicious elbows in the main event. No word how long Orton will be out (and don't read the reports that he's been suspended. An old story on WWE.com has resurfaced today about his second Wellness Police violation in 2012).

Power bombed!
Courtesy: WWE
Perhaps the most concerning from a storyline point of view is Finn Balor. The first WWE Universal Champion suffered an arm injury during his battle with Seth Rollins. Many believe it happened when Rollins power bombed the Demon King on the barricade outside the ring. Balor was seen after the show with a sling, but when he appeared on Good Morning America Monday morning he was not wearing any sort of support. Hopefully if he is injured it will not require surgery and the program WWE has planned will move forward.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

SummerSlam: The go home blog


By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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SummerSlam is hours away and I haven't posted my predictions yet. As I mentioned during Facebook Live earlier in the week, I like being WRONG with my predictions. It means the product isn't predictable. I will say this about SummerSlam, it's the best looking card on paper for 2016. I can't wait to wait and wish I was in Brooklyn for this year's event. 


Nakamura wins the gold
Courtesy: WWE
By the way, I thought NXT: Takeover was a solid show, but having not seen a lot of NXT in recent weeks I was lost with some of the characters. But the wrestling and storytelling was superb, which is no surprise. It'll be interesting to see what happens with both Bayley and Samoa Joe as many are speculating the former NXT Women's Champion is now main roster bound. SmackDown Live could certainly use her.

Back to SummerSlam, these are my quick picks, and with four potential main events, I'm curious to see what will close the show. I'd go with Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor because they're crowning a brand new champion and the Demon King's entrance will be hard to top. 

Rollins will be the new Universal champion. However, I like both men involved and would be happy with either coming out on top.

Dean Ambrose will beat Dolph Ziggler, but the story won't end here. A frustrated Ziggler will go back to his heel roots and continue to pursue the WWE World Heavyweight title.

Brock Lesnar will defeat Randy Orton in a back and forth match that will feature kick outs from RKOs and F5s.

AJ Styles will pin John Cena.

Sasha Banks will retain against Charlotte (but I want Charlotte to regain the Women's Championship).

The Club will beat the New Day by disqualification when Big E does a run in.

Rusev will beat Roman Reigns by dirty means. Rusev HAS to retain. This is the only match I'm adamant about ending the way I want it to end.

The Miz will beat Apollo Cruz (or at least walk out still Intercontinental Champion).

Enzo and Big Cass will beat Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens. Jericho gets pinned and maybe sets up for a series between he and Owens.

Naomi, Becky Lynch and Carmella will beat Natalya and Alexa Bliss. If Eva Marie was still involved I would have given the heel women the win here with Eva scoring the pin. I wonder if they'll continue the no show gimmick, I doubt it because she's been removed from match card due to her suspension. 


Sheamus will get the first win in the best of seven series with Cesaro.

Neville & Sami Zayn will win against the Dudley Boys. I kinda like the development of Neville and Zayn as a team.

American Alpha, The Hype Bros and The Usos will lose to Breezango, The Ascension and The Vaudevillans. It's the usual 50/50 booking by WWE. Plus one of those heel teams needs to get a push. 

For the love of God, please don't let Jon Stewart interfere in any of the matches this year...


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Close the gate

President Richard M. Nixon
Courtesy: AP
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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In the early 1970s, five men broke into the office of the Democratic National Committee, which was part of the Watergate Complex. The suspects were tied to then President Richard M. Nixon and the Watergate Scandal was born. You know how that story ends. What I'm addressing today is the media's constant adding of the word "gate" to other so-called scandals.

Ryan Lochte
Courtesy: USA Today
Just this week LochteGate became a thing. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte and three others claimed they'd been robbed at gunpoint in Brazil. Turns out they lied. Then there's Tom Brady's DeflateGate scandal. Chris Christie was the focus of BridgeGate and Bill Clinton was a key player in MonicaGate after his affair with Monica Lewinsky and the lies he told as a result. Even lesser controversies received the "gate" moniker, like Janet Jackson's nip slip at the Superbowl in 2004 was called NippleGate.

Watergate complex
I was talking to a coworker the other day who brought up an interesting point. It makes no sense to add the word "gate" to these situations. By doing so it implies that the original scandal, Watergate, had something to do with water. As we've established, it didn't. Watergate is the name of the building complex. 

Sure there are bigger things to worry about, but with the recent "gates" being thrown out there, I thought I'd give it some perspective. The media (yes I'm part of it) needs just report the events and not try to oversell the situation.

NXT Takeover: Sequelitis




By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter
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NXT Takeover: Dallas is highly regarded as the best Takeover special NXT has done. The tag team, Women’s and NXT title matches all delivered on a rollercoaster of emotions. Sami Zayn and Shinsuke Nakamura had what has been heralded as the greatest NXT match ever. With such high praise it’s understandable the Takeover shows that follow will have the deck stacked against them in terms of delivering a spectacular show.

Since Takeover: Dallas and the next special Takeover: The End, NXT has lost several of their key talents to the WWE main roster. Former tag champions American Alpha, former NXT champion Finn Balor and Baron Corbin who all appeared on the last two Takeovers are gone from NXT. So are crowd favorites and newer talents such as Enzo and Big Cass, Nia Jax and Eva Marie. While NXT is in a rebuilding phase and still have well known talent, that talent is still at a level a few notches below the talent that’s departed NXT.

Last year's NXT Takeover: Brooklyn
Courtesy: WWE
It’s not just the loss of talent NXT has to overcome for their latest special Takeover: Brooklyn 2. I think this special will fall short because of sequelitis. Since Takeover: Dallas, Hollywood has delivered 16 weeks of sequels at the multiplex. Most of these films have failed to live up to the expectations established by the previous film. The same flaws I have seen in the theatrical sequels, I see in the line up for Takeover: Brooklyn 2.



Looking at the card for TO:B2, I see a lot of similarities to the failed Hollywood offerings. It’s not that the TO:B2 card is bad, it’s just that compared to the previous events, there’s not much to get excited about, in my opinion. I also realize I’m not the NXT target demographic. I’m pretty confident that if I play the “this is awesome” drinking game, I’ll be drunk 30 minutes into the show.

My biggest issue with this show is that nothing seems to have any meaningful build. Other than the Women’s Title match, which is a rematch, and the Tag Title, everything else seems to be the result of some one saying “these are the people we want to focus on, put them in matches.” I don’t think there’s any real intrigue in any of the undercard matches.

Hopefully, it’ll help if I view this show like the sequels I’ve seen this year. To paraphrase the Gin Blossoms, if I don’t expect too much, I can’t be let down.” The wrestling should be very good even if the storytelling of the show isn’t the greatest.