Greetings, fellow Earth dwellers. Whether you are a home grown Earthling, a refugee from cosmic war on Vega-6, or just stopping through this dimension for a brief vacation from whatever hellscape you escaped from, you have probably heard that a lot of things have happened in professional wrestling in the past couple weeks. Today on the Fantasy Book, we are going to look at a few of news bits and add a little commentary to them. Here we go…
1. Jinder Mahal is now the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Yes, in case you just returned from a sabbatical to climb Mt. Everest (and if so, what the heck did you do to the mountain?!), Jinder Mahal defeated Randy Orton for the belt at the most recent WWE PPV. Honestly, I don’t even remember the name of the PPV now, that is how inconsequential these lesser PPVs are. Okay, I looked it up. It was Backlash, but you can’t tell me that you were 100% sure of that. It could have easily been Payback or Fastlane or Roadblock or No Mercy or something else. Anyway …
Jinder Mahal. He is the champion now. At first, I was like everyone else who was wondering why? I even made a completely unfounded speculation that Orton was injured or would be suspended soon. Because having Jinder Mahal win just didn’t make sense.
It would be easy to be cynical here. But I am not going to talk about Vince’s love of the big strong guys. I am not even going to touch on the racist elements that Vince McMahon loves to drum up. We don’t really need a reason to chant at shows, and while “USA” is a fine little chant, it is not the only one. See “yes.”
Has Jinder Mahal worked hard and now his hard work is paying off? By all accounts, the answer is yes, but how would the general fan know this? Mahal has been booked as a jobber for quite a while now. I know he had success in the early days of NXT, but not on the main roster. Remember, this is the guy that, a little over a year ago, in storyline terms, wasn’t drafted in the brand split and was out of work. It took Heath Slater, of all people, to bring him back. Even then he wasn’t booked strong. He continued to be a jobber until he had a little run as Rusev’s running buddy. But that was short lived, and the brief Jinder versus Rusev feud fizzled quickly (although I guess it could always be restarted on Smackdown Live now).
Then, magically, he was moved to Smackdown and got a shot at Randy Orton and the World Title. And he won! But, still, why? Or even worse, so what? The crowd cheered for Mahal’s victory. Not so much because they like him, but because they wanted something new. Something different instead of the same old boring Randy Orton match every week. (Plus, Orton is just awful as a face.)
Originally, I didn’t want to get behind this new title reign. I am still not sure I buy Mahal as a worthy champion yet. But … I think I would rather see where this goes instead of watching Randy Orton stomp on people slowly. So, I will reverse my previous position on this issue and say Yay for Jinder Mahal. Congrats!
(One final note – the members of 3 Man Band have had themselves a pretty good year. Heath Slater won the Smackdown Tag Team titles and has a job. Jinder Mahal won the World Title, and Drew McIntyre was able to escape TNA and is currently getting a little push over on NXT. Not bad.)
2. The day before, on NXT:Takeover, there were a few interesting items. First, Bobby Roode retained his title against Hideo Itami. That’s fine by me, as Roode needs a little bit more time with the belt. And while his matches are never 5-star showcases, I think he definitely has a place in the WWE Universe. In fact, check out my Fantasy Book from last week (http://insidepulse.com/2017/05/22/the-fantasy-book-on-goldusts-showstopping-final-act/) to see how I would eventually bring him onto the main roster.
Second, Asuka retained her title again. I love Asuka, but that NXT Woman’s Division really needs some fresh blood. Asuka has beaten everyone in the division. Many she has beaten multiple times. Not sure where to take that title next.
Third, the WWE UK title changed hands on the show. The match stole the show. Good for them.
Finally, The Authors of Pain retained their tag titles against #DIY in a ladders match. As much as #DIY tried, the AoP is still very green and need a lot more work. I may have a suggestion for that in next week’s column, so be on the lookout for that.
3. Ring of Honor also held some big events recently. The War of the Worlds PPV and several shows around it showcased both ROH and New Japan stars. One big newsworthy item that came out of the PPV was that Kenny Omega basically fired Adam Cole from Bullet Club. He did so from the jumbotron while the Young Bucks hit stereo superkicks on him. There was one other bit to this story. They also took this time to add a new member to the Bullet Club – Marty Scurll.
If you have been reading my Ring of Honor 10 Thoughts columns, you could probably guess that I like Marty Scurll and think he’s just awesome. I am also tired of the NWO rip-off Bullet Club. So it should come as no surprise that I am unimpressed with this development. I could care less about the Adam Cole part of it. Everyone knows he is on his way out of ROH and this was a logical extension of the current storyline they had going with him. But The Villain? He doesn’t need Bullet Club. He is great on his own. The reveal with Bullet Club written on his umbrella was cool, but unnecessary.
To make matters worse, Scurll apparently lost the ROH TV title the next night to Kushida. Nothing against Kushida, and I would like to see wrestle more often on ROH shows, but Scurll was just getting started with that belt. This is going to take me a while to digest.
4. During the War of the World show, New Japan announced a new title – the IWGP United States title to be filled during a tournament this summer. This is pretty cool if for nothing else than it will expand New Japan’s stretch into the US marketplace. And that is good news for everyone, as New Japan is undoubtedly the biggest deal outside of WWE.
5. The last thing I wanted to mention is something that a lot of people have been bemoaning online, but I think it great. After their match at NXT:Takeover, #DIY said goodbye to the crowd in much the same way others have who were being called up to the main rosters. However, as they were ready to go back through the curtain, Tommaso Ciampa turned on his partner Johnny Gargano and utterly decimated him.
Now, tag teams break up all the time, but NXT fans really loved #DIY. They built their fanbase organically through hard work and talent. The crowds were invested in them. They wanted them to succeed. And succeed they did, winning the tag team titles from The Revival in one of the best tag team matches I’ve seen in a long time.
I liked the #DIY team. But I also liked the breakup. I know a lot of people felt like it was a kick in the gut, but isn’t that what a good turn should do? I know Vince Russo and others have lessened our ability to really feel the emotional reactions to swerves, but this one hit. That is a testament to the NXT group for building #DIY so organically, and a testament to Tommaso and Johnny in their abilities in the ring, both physical and psychological.
Why do I feel good about this team splitting up though? Well, anyone who saw Tommaso Ciampa’s run in Ring of Honor knows that the Sicilian Psychopath is a great heel. He plays the part so well, looks so menacing, appears genuinely unhinged at times, while also bringing the goods in the ring. His feud with Cedric Alexander in ROH which culminated in an incredible Anything Goes match, involving everything being destroyed in their path, was just wonderful. And having him leave ROH due to attacking another non-wrestler after being suspended previously was a nice touch to his more than solid work. (Fun fact – Nigel McGuinness was the Authority Figure there at that time and would be a nice thing to reference on commentary if he is allowed.)
The Sicilian Psychopath is one of my favorite wrestlers. And I know he can pull off the off-the-rails heel. Johnny Gargano is the other side of the coin here. My guess is that if there has to be a Shawn Michaels coming out of the split, it would be Ciampa. But that doesn’t mean that Gargano has to become Marty Jannetty. Johnny Wrestling has become super popular with the crowds in NXT. His offense is very face-friendly and garners lots of oohs and aahs. Plus, we have seen these two wrestle once before in the Cruiserweight Classic, which was a great match.
Their initial battles here should be great. It should be energetic, painful, and emotionally charged. What happens after they are done with each other, I am not sure. I think that Ciampa and Gargano will be linked together for quite a while, but that is not a bad thing at all. I have a feeling that if anyone can pull off a tag team split where BOTH members of the team achieve major success, it is these two.
Until next week, be sure to whisper around your microwaves. You never know who may be listening…