Metalhead’s Riff: From New Beginnings to Selfish Lunatics (NJPW’s New beginning in Sendai, WWE, NXT, FD Swayze)


Lots to talk about today since I’ll be looking back at New beginning in Sendai, and on top of that I’ll be addressing some of the ongoing WWE/NXT discussions, trying to view them from another angle entirely and revealing who exactly is a selfish lunatic ( don’t worry Mr Swayze, it’s not you). But first things first, the second part of NJPW’s New beginning shows. Those crazy enough to actually read my columns know that last week I reviewed the Osaka show and, while not fantastically amazing as Wrestle Kingdom 9 was, I still deemed it more than good enough for my seal of approval. Let’s see then what the Sendai show delivered.

Part 1: New Beginning in Sendai (02-14-2015)

New Beginnings in Sendai started of with big news. What was still a rumor in Osaka now became a fact. Defending NEVER champion Togi Makabe was not able to participate (due to illness I’m told) and therefore stripped of the title the card was changed to include Tomohiro Ishii vs Tomoaki Honma for the now vacant title.That being clarified, let’s jump right into things:

Yohei Komatsu & Satoshi Kojima vs. Manabu Nakanishi & Captain New Japan:

About what you’d expect from those four, Komatsu did what he could against the virtually immobile brick wall called Nakanishi, Captain New Japan and Kojima hit some moves and Komatsu took the fall of course. Pretty generic opener, nothing special.

ReDragon (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly) vs. Tiger Mask & Jay White:

The ReDragon boys are always up for a spirited showing, but real surprise here was Jay White who displayed tons of potential and ability. This wasn’t his match to win, but his exchanges with both members of ReDragon were pretty damn good. Solid match, is certainly worth watching for White’s showing.

Mascara Dorada & Time Splitters (Alex Shelley & Kushida) vs. Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) & Kenny Omega:

AFter New Beginning in Osaka and Omega’s disaster of a match, I was a bit apprehensive about this one. I should have known better. Whenever the Young Bucks and the Time Splitters are in that ring together, it’s high-spot bonanza, and Dorada happily joined in on the fun. Omega, on his side, reminded us that he’s a pretty good worker when he concentrates on wrestling. Dorada was the star here, with some very impressive moves. He pinned Omega to take this one, heralding the future match between those two. The Time Splitters meanwhile are aiming straight at The Young Bucks Tag belts. I have no problem with either of those match-ups (as long as Omega continues on the same vein as here).

NWA Junior Heavyweight Championship: Jushin Liger (c) vs.  Chase Owens:

With the always fun to watch Bruce Tharpe trying his best to rile up Liger, this one wasn’t bad either. Owens and Liger had (mostly) good exchanges (discounting  few rough spots here and there) and Tharpe played his ringside role well without overdoing it. Fun little match, nothing spectacular mind you, but still fun. Liger retained and nominated Tiger Mask (who had accompanied him) as his next opponent. Well, why not?

NWA World Heavyweight Championship: Rob Conway (c) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan:

This was a surprise for me, much better than I anticipated. Tharpe was there again (of course) and again provided some interference but without hindering the flow of the match. And that one was pretty good. Conway was a surprise here, good effort from him given his level of abilities, but Tenzan was in great form and worked his ass off to carry Conway too a very entertaining match. As with the previous one, a few rough spots here and there, but those were easily overlooked en route to Tenzan’s first single title win in ten years. Afterwards an emotional Kojima (Tenzan’s usual tag-team partner) challenged him for the title. Challenge accepted. Should be fun!

Kota Ibushi & Tetsuya Naito vs. Kazushi Sakuraba & Toru Yano:

Don’t really know how to rate Yano, as his shenanigans are a bit lost on me. For the rest another fun watch, with especially Ibushi and Sakuraba producing some very stiff and intense exchanges. Naito pins Yano in the end. Nothing really wrong with this one, but someone needs to explain Yano to me because I don’t get it.

Kazuchika Okada & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi.

Some good moves in this one… Well except when Fale was on the offensive. In the continued story between him and Okada, Okada won this round by pinning Takakashi with the Rainmaker. This is a bit of a special one. On the one hand you wish they would get on with things, on the other hand Fale vs Okada (or anyone else) in a one-on one match just isn’t very appealing to me. Good showing by YOSHI-HASHI also. Ok match to set up Fale vs Okada (sigh…).

Hiroshi Tanahashi & Meiyu Yag (Katsuyori Shibata & Hirooki Goto) vs. Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows & Tama Tonga.

The Bullet Club boys came out painted as KISS for some reason, but once we were done wondering about that, we were presented with another solid 6-man tag-match. Goto especially seemed to have fun out there and was in good form. Tanahashi pinned Tonga for the win, but something tells me the big story out of this match is that Anderson and Gallows haven’t seen the last of Maiyu Yag. They better hold on to those Tag team belts while they can.

NEVER Championship: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tomoaki Honma.

Ah yes, the match that wasn’t supposed to be. And ended up receiving 5 stars ratings by most of the wrestling observers. Yes, you heard me right, five stars. Deserved? Hell yes. This is the one match you don’t wanna miss boys and girls, a stellar showing by both men, Honma taking his usual missed Kogetsu routine to another level and Ishii playing his though man character to perfection. Psychology, chemistry, drama, intense action, crazy spots, storytelling, this one has it all. The crowd was red hot for anything Honma did, but, in the end, Ishii took this one. The unfortunate Makabe will be demanding a title shot before long, but, after this showing, something tells me Honma won’t be far behind. MUST WATCH!!! Really guys, watch this, it’s freaking amazing.

IWGP Intercontinental Title – Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Yuji Nagata:

I’m a Nakamura fan. I’m saying that right from the top to illustrate I’m very much into anything Nakamura does and tend to prepare my “Match of the Night” stamp whenever he appears. Trouble here is I’m also supposed to be objective, somewhat, when I task myself with writing reviews, and, well, we’ve already had our match of the night didn’t we? In fact Ishii vs Honma deserves match of the week/month/year thus far honors. So what are we left with? Another good, solid match with strong in-ring psychology and storytelling. In short Nagata putting his experience against the faster Nakamura. A good match with some really intense moments it was perhaps fighting a lost battle simply because it came after THAT match. Not Nakamura’s best, but no blame should be placed on Nagata for that who deserves tons of credit for still being able to pull this off at the age of 46. Still well worth watching.

While I didn’t scream MUST WATCH as often here as I did for the Osaka show, Sendaai’s New Beginning still feels like the stronger one. One truly stellar match and a slew of good, solid matches, some endings, some new beginnings, all in all very solid offering by our friends from Japan. If NB in Osaka was already watchable, this one was very much so. Well worth your time, this one also gets Metalhead’s Seal of Approval. Twice!


Part 2: Selfish Lunatics.

For those who, based on the title, expect another rant at Vinnie Mac and his cronies, you better stop reading right now because those two words are actually hurled at us, wrestling fans. What the hell brought that on? What did we do now you will ask. Well let me tell you.

For some weeks now I’ve been reading article after article, comment after comment about how great NXT is, how bad Raw and (to a lesser degree) Smackdown has become, how WWE should be more like NXT and so on and so forth. Hey, not digging at anyone here, I’ve been participating  enthusiastically. Did all of us participate? No, there were a few notable exceptions, a few lone voices ( that’s you FD Swayze and Chris Sanders probably deserves an honorable mention too). Now I’m as big a wrestling fan as the next… well, wrestling fan, which also means I’m not ashamed to admit I can be subjective and a mark about certain things, just as we all can be at times. Is that a bad thing? No, it’s fun and that’s what wrestling should always be about, fun. So we can be as big a mark as we want, as long as we have fun being it. That being said, it’s sometimes good, especially when we’re writing and commenting, to let the Selfish Lunatic in us (aka wrestling fan) be and look at things from a more objective and realistic point of view.

To start illustrating my point, let me take you back to a column my colleague writer Vincent wrote and that is entitled “The Warzone: WWE vs NXT”. And before I continue I want to stress this is not a dig at Vincent nor is it a criticism about the quality of his writing, on the contrary, I thought this was a pretty good column. But, there was, in the opinion of the realist in me, a very basic flaw with the starting concept. And that flaw was that is sinned against a very important axiom: Compare what’s comparable.

Now why would it be so wrong to compare NXT with RAW for example? They are both wrestling shows, right? Well, no, not exactly. RAW is Sports Entertainment aimed at a variety of audiences, NXT is a wrestling show aimed at a very specific audience (that’s us, the “wrestling” fans in case you hadn’t noticed). Yes but that’s the whole problem some of you might say, if Raw was more aimed at wrestling fans, then all would be happy right? The wrestling fan in me agrees. The realist in me says: Why the hell would they do that? Let me go one further on this one, they (WWE) would actually be pretty stupid to do that. RAW, whether we want to admit it or not, attracts a rather large spectrum of audiences. Like Triple H himself noted, there is that 8 year old boy, there are those teenage girls and boys, there are those parents, grandparents, aunties, whatever. There are those guys who don’t really care about wrestling but are just there to have a good time. There are probably a few others and then there is us. The “Wrestling Fan”. Actually we are a pretty small part of that “every which way” audience WWE loves to attract. And why shouldn’t they? Their money is as good as ours, and there ARE much more of them than there are of us. And that’s what makes us unhappy. We resent RAW because it isn’t aimed at us. We hate the fact that, apparently, that 8 year old boy might have has much influence of what happens in WWE than we are. We hide behind statements like “WWE doesn’t listen to their fans”, to obscure the fact that we don’t care at all about what the 8 year old boy wants out of RAW, or the teenagers or the parents, we don’t care about any of those groups because we want RAW to be about us, and they should just like what we like. The simple truth is WWE doesn’t have that luxury. They HAVE to care about all those different audiences because they are the ones who will bring in the most money. Do they succeed in keeping THOSE audiences happy? That’s actually a very difficult question to answer. We, Selfish Lunatics, want to scream a resounding “NO! NO! NO” at that. But the truth is we don’t, we can’t  know. Do any of us really know what a 8 year old non-wrestling wants out of RAW? The teenagers? The grandparents? All those people? Of course not, we only know what WE want. And, let’s face it, chances are it’s not the same as what THEY want.

For his column Vincent took three very specific points and compared them RAW vs NXT. Let’s look at those points but keeping in mind what I’ve just explained.

Commentary. Vincent stated that the NXT commentary team was much better than, for example the RAW team because they talked about wrestling (and the matches) all the time. FD Swayze immediately disputed that and I have to agree with him. If you want a true masterclass of play-by-play commentary go listen to Matt Striker’s efforts at Wrestle Kingdom 9. He even made us forget that good Old JR was up to his old tricks of stumbling over his words and mixing up wrestlers names. But I digress. The real point here is, could commentary like done on NXT survive in a RAW environment? Of course you will all say (and the wrestling fan in me will agree). Of course not, the realist in me answers. Just imagine the 8 year old face if all he was hearing on the telly was three guys talking about nothing else but wrestling FOR THREE HOURS. He would be bored out of his mind after 5 minutes. NXT commentary is aimed at one audience, wrestling fans. Raw commentary is aimed at seven or eight different audiences. That’s why it’s so difficult to compare, it’s simply not the same thing.

Diva’s. Vincent stated that the NXT girls are much better than their RAW counterparts. Here Mr Swayze agreed. The wrestling fan in me agrees also. The realist in me says yes, but it’s irrelevant. NXT girls are there to wrestle because NXT is aimed at wrestling fans. Diva’s are NOT aimed at wrestling fans, they’re mostly aimed at teenagers for what should be obvious reasons. That is a difficulty any NXT female wrestler will encounter when making the transition to RAW. Their wrestling talent won’t matter, that’s not what RAW Diva’s about. What will matter is their capacity to appeal to a certain (non-wrestling fan) audience. Case in point Paige. Some have seen the fact that Paige is in a feud with the Bella’s over the Women’s Title as encouraging. Because Paige is that girl that can actually wreslte, right? Wrong. Paige is not being ^promoted as a capable wrestler at all when you look at things. Paige is being promoted as “Pale Emo Girl”. Her rather distinct appearance is being used to appeal to a certain audience. Nothing more, nothing else. I mean,  did you really think she was added to the Total Diva’s cast because of her wrestling talent? Think again. That is the question EVERY NXT Diva has to ask themselves. Forget about wrestling talent, to which audience can I appeal? If they can’t answer that question, they’re in trouble.

Wrestling talent. Let’s move a bit away from Raw for a minute and talk about wrestling a bit, shall we? We love wrestling, son’t we? That’s why we love NXT and wish RAW would be more like that. But I’ve been wondering something for a while now. If we love wrestling so much, why are we only talking about NXT? Why not talk about ROH, AAA, NJPW and all those other promotions. Oh there are  great writers like Jake Ziegler, Steven Berkman and Grainbell Jones actually reviewing those shows but they barely get a comment. NXT is mentioned in passing somewhere and it gets 20 comments. Why is that, is NXT wrestling really that much better than all those other shows? Hell, I’ve just Tomohiro Ishii vs Tomoaki Honma happened on February the 14th. Like said above it was a stellar match that received 5 star ratings from several wrestling observers, so we should all be raving about that one right? We’re wrestling fans after all, aren’t we? Yet not one article about, not one comment, as far as I could read (and correct me if I’m wrong) that truly amazing battle wasn’t even mentioned on these pages, until today. Why is that I wonder?

Let me tell you why, and at the same time let me tell you why the wrestling fan in us like NXT so much. Because it’s convenient. NXT is a very smart marketing move by the WWE. Because there is one basic truth we should never forget:

Quote FD Swayze: “NXT IS WWE, YOU IDIOTS!” (again Mr Swayze, please correct me if I quoted you wrongly, but, again, I think I got the gist of it).

I sometimes think Vince McMahon is laughing his ass off at us because, while we complain bitterly about RAW not being what WE want, we watch and gush and rave about NXT and point out how good it is. And it’s OK that we like it, I’ll say even more we’re supposed to like it because it’s aimed straight at us. WWE took a simple concept, gave it a “Indie” feel, enhanced it with those vaunted WWE production values to give it a nice, shiny appearance and we swallowed it whole and begged for more. At this point it doesn’t even matter if we don’t like RAW anymore, it doesn’t matter if we don’t like Reigns (who we probably resent in part because he isn’t aimed at us, he’s aimed at teenage girls), hell if they try something like at the rumble and it doesn’t work all they have to do is wave Bryan in front of us and we’re good again for awhile. Meanwhile they can concentrate on the audiences they REALLY want on RAW, and that’s all those listed above. And while all that happens we’re happily watching a toned down version of performers like Prince Devitt, KENTA, Kevin Steen and others, and we like it because it’s convenient. We don’t have to suffer trough ROH’s poor production values. We don’t have to watch that slightly alien Japanese style . We get a ready-made product that’s easy to watch and keep us happy. We’re even, as FD Swayze (him again) pointed out on several occasion quite subjective about it, myself included. I don’t mind repeating my words from the RIVAL roundtable. Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn was a perfect match with a perfect ending. Looking back at it, I should have added “between the parameters WWE set up for us”. Because, let’s face it, and I’m not talking to the wrestling fans here. Was it a perfect match? Nah. Was it a perfect ending? Gods no. In fact in any other situation (RAW) and with any other wrestlers we would have collectively scoffed at such an ending. Mr Swayze pointed it out and while some actually thought he was trolling us, the realist in me had to admit he was correct. But what WAS perfect was the set-up. The story WWE told us was designed to reel us in and make us forget about the weaker, more illogical sides of the whole thing. And we bought it and swallowed it whole. You gotta admit (even you Swayze) they sold it beautifully.

We ARE still complaining about RAW of course, but it doesn’t matter anymore, they got us hooked on NXT and they know it. WWE not listening to its audience? Oh they’re listening alright, we just didn’t realize it.

And finally we don’t even have the pleasure of bashing Vince McMahon on this one, or hide behind the fact that it’s Triple H and his writing team that books that show, because, quote from Triple H on the Austin Podcast:

“EVERYTHING that happens in WWE is ultimately approved by Vincent K. MacMahon he has the last word on EVERY single thing”.

Quote FD Swayze: “NXT IS WWE, YOU IDIOTS!”. (I’m starting to like that quote, I get to insult everyone, and if anyone complains I can simply say, wasn’t me I just quoted FD Swayze, talk to him, hehehe).

Nuff said.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t continue loving NXT and hating RAW here, it’s lots of fun doing both, but we should NEVER forget one basic truth.

NXT and RAW (and Smackdown and all the rest) are just two sides of the same coin.

And that coin is going straight into Mr McMahon’s pocket.

That’s all from me, congrats to those who managed to reach the end of this, have fun you all and see you later!

P.S. Apologies to FD Swayze for using his name in such a cavalier manner, but, since some of those points were actually said by him first on various discussion, i would have felt remiss if i did not credit him in some way. Hope you don’t mind too much…






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