wrestling / Columns

Dusting Off the Pages: Looking at AEW, NJPW & Impact

March 13, 2020 | Posted by Dino Zee
Jon Moxley AEW Full Gear

It’s taken me a while, but I’m back. And if I can say anything about my time away, it’s that the phrase “we’ll get it next week” is deadly, especially if you’re a chronic procrastinator like I am. I got the All Clear! from Larry halfway through January to make my comeback, and I was definitely ready to do it. I’d already done a couple Fact or Fictions because I can’t say no to Chambers, and it just felt right.

I wanted, at the time, to talk about WrestleKingdom, which I had just finished watching and thought was fantastic. Then the thought hit me that I should wait until after Royal Rumble had come and gone, and then I could just merge the two shows into one big column. We’ll get it next week

And then February, as it tends to do, came and went in the blink of an eye, and it was finally time for me to stop saying We’ll get it next week, and to just do the damn thing. So here I am. This isn’t going to be your typical ZWI fare – I’m going to shoot pretty straightforward this time out, just because of how long it’s been.

One of the main things that’s kept me out since the summer, though, has been a total lack of watching RAW and/or SmackDown. Part of it was due to not enjoying either very much, while the other was having cut the cable cord, moving into a new spot, and just having so much else to watch now, that carving out 5 hours for stuff I’m not loving seemed weird.

I also had a few months where I fell criminally behind on Impact, too. That left me looking to catch up, and once that happened, we’d be all good. Much like we’ll get it next week, the idea that all I have to do is catch up! proved to be a silly thought proved sillier in practice. To “catch up” with months of wrestling, one must only do that – catch up. Eventually, I had to realize that I wasn’t going to fill in the missing spots, and that I’d just have to regain my footing with the product overall, and rebuild from there. And come on, a few months isn’t the worst, and I was still at least somewhat on top of what was going on through recaps and talking with friends.

All that said, the bottom line was: no one needs a wrestling writer who isn’t seeing all that much wrestling. So I stayed away. I still hit a ton of Hoodslam shows, but I also know that while I may consider that the best stuff in the world, it’s quite possible that my readers not in the general Bay Area of California might not agree / know what I’m talking about.

Going forward, I’m not planning to reinvent the wheel here. ZWI will probably return in some form, because frankly, I just prefer that style over an opinion based coverage. I’ve slowly got back into Impact, caught the Rumble and Super Showdown, and I watch AEW’s Dynamite weekly. To the dismay of longtime friend of the column, the ghost of Buddy Rogers, I still haven’t got my brain to remind me to watch youtube so I can peep NWA Powerrr. Soon, I promise!

That said, let’s just make this easy. Somewhat in the form of my old Smart Marks column, I’m just going to break this up into three subsections, and talk about what I’ve enjoyed in my time away.

All Elite Wrestling – Outperforming Any T-Shirt Company, Ever

Just to get it out of the way, I like AEW. I like it a lot. I don’t like it enough to hound NXT fans on Twitter and brag about ratings that don’t matter at all anymore, but I still like it. I’m also not going to give people grief for not liking it, because a) we all have opinions and b) the A Lot of People Had THIS Opinion, But They’re Wrong and Here’s Why column has to be the laziest trope going in “wrestling journalism,” and I refuse to add to the pile. If you don’t like it, good on you, you don’t have to!

For me, it starts with the pure nostalgia I get when the program starts, and I’m transported back to 1997 as Monday Nitro starts. I don’t mean to compare their booking or anything, but just the look of Dynamite pulls hard on my nostalgic senses, and I freaking love it. Then I hear Tony Schiavone and Jim Ross, and it’s just the weirdest feeling of serene.

But they don’t get a free pass on nostalgia alone. I love Orange Cassidy. I love the Best Friends. I love LAX (I don’t use the ‘Proud and Powerful’ name, sorry – I’m such a cool smark!). I love the Lucha Bros. I love Butcher and The Blade, and their manager… wait. No… NO! That can’t be! I SAW HER DIE!!! I love Kris Statlander (as I mentioned in this piece back in July).

I enjoyed Moxley vs. Omega. I’ve enoyed the MJF/Cody feud. I’m looking forward to Revolution. In short, like I said, I like AEW.

It’s not perfect, though. Riho was not someone that I found myself enjoying, and every week that I saw her beat someone better, it made me really question what the hell was going on with the women’s division. Nyla Rose now holding the belt makes me feel better, and trust that you can save any and all of your transphobic shit for someone who can be bothered to care.

I don’t get why Adam Page has been stuck in a tag team, and I hate seeing The Elite get to hold hands in title matches with each other. But that’ll all settle down with time. The product has worked for me, and I look forward to seeing more. AEW has definitely been a high point for me in my time away.

Side note: I’ve also enjoyed seeing Cody, Mox, and Shawn Spears totally show what they can do without the shackles of WWE! And would you believe it’s basically the same stuff they always did? It’s okay to leave without trying to make yourself a prisoner, guys!

New Japan: Wrestle Kingdom delivers MOTY

Again, it’s just an opinion, but I can’t remember being as wrapped up into a match like I was during the opus between Kazuchika Okada and Kota Ibushi at Wrestle Kingdom 14. Just watching it slowly build, then seeing it get super brutal with some powerful strikes, the constant back and forth, the finishers, the super-finishers, the kickouts… my buddy and I, who normally spend the time watching shows cracking jokes the whole time, were dead silent as this thing unfolded before us.

We were both rooting hard for an Ibushi win, and firmly believed it was going to come. We bit hard on every near fall towards the end, and were completely shocked and crestfallen when it was all over. But the reason I know this match was good was that I wasn’t even angry when it was over. Disappointed for Kota, of course, but with so much respect for Okada.

Five years ago, I watched Wrestle Kingdom 9, and cheered huge when Tanahashi beat Okada in the main event. I’d heard how Okada was the future, and instantly decided that he wasn’t that good. Over the years, as he’s beaten more of my favorites, I’ve stayed from being a fan, while at least admitting he’s okay. Catching him at New Japan Showdown in San Jose in November, though, represented a turning point for me. His very presence at that show just felt like a big deal. He felt on par with World Heavyweight Champions of my youth. He wrestled an incredible match, and spoke to us afterwards, and it was just such a great moment, that I decided “okay, he ain’t so bad.” I’m sure it meant a lot to him as well.

So when the match was over, all I could do was applaud. Okada is everything they wanted him to be. He’s been that for years now, with Tanahashi, with Naito, with Kenny Omega, with Jay White, with Katsuyori Shibata, with Kota Ibushi, and with everyone else put in front of him. He’s fucking incredible and I’m happy to be around to see him wrestle.

Wrestle Kingdom, overall, was very fun. The two night special was great, and the conclusion of the Double Gold was also fantastic. I loved the Jay White / Naito match, as well as Moxley / Lance Archer. It should be noted that I was immediately all in for Archer’s EVERYBODY DIES gimmick change, too.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the retirement of Jushin “Thunder” Liger, someone readers of the column may know is someone I absolutely worshipped, and who I was lucky enough to get to meet in March of 2018 at a show in San Francisco.

While the two matches of his at Wrestle Kingdom were slightly underwhelming, I marked HARD for his first match featuring old partners and opponents (HIS FUCKING TEAM WAS HIMSELF, FUJINAMI, GREAT SASUKE, AND TIGER MASK!!! WE SAW OTANI AGAIN!!!), and appreciated his final match for what it was – proof that he could no longer compete, as he took an absolute beating from Ryu Lee and Hiromu Takahashi. The message was clear: his time was up. But man, what a time it was.

All Hail Jushin Liger!!

Impact: Figuring Out the Fun

I still love Impact, and I don’t intend on stopping. The roster has been a little weird the last couple years, with acts coming and going pretty quickly, but the promotion continues to plug along, delivering fun matches in the process.

The big story while I was away was the rise of Tessa Blanchard, who ultimately became Impact’s World Heavyweight Champion at Hard to Kill. This wasn’t without controversy (some from fans who don’t like women wrestling men, some from others who don’t like alleged misconduct), but it remains a pretty huge moment in the sport’s history. Tessa Blanchard got there through hard work and ability, and Impact took the chance of making a woman their top champion.

Outside of that, I’ve enjoyed The Rascalz doing their thing, TJP getting Fallah Bahh out of shell and forming a fun team, THE NORTH (because they rule your entire world), and Reno Scum being in the mix at all times.

Throw in favorites like Joey Ryan, Ken Shamrock, Moose, and Knockouts Champion Jordynne Grace, and we’re all good here, baby! I also tend to watch the Twitch stream, so it’s also nice to get the thoughts of Melissa Santos, who’s nice enough to interact with us dorks on a Tuesday evening!

Sure, there’s RVD, who I’ve never really been a huge fan of, getting wins over people who could really use them, but whatever. And this Michael Elgin / Eddie Edwards feud isn’t really doing it for me. Again, I’ll survive.
Nothing’s perfect, not even Impact Wrestling, haha.

That’ll do it for this week. Nothing big, just something easy to get back into the swing of things. It’s been too long, but it’s nice to be back. There was just no way I was going to ruin the mood by talking about Super Showdown. Yeesh.

article topics :

AEW, Impact Wrestling, NJPW, Dino Zee