Before getting to my thoughts on WWE, I want to write real quick about independent wrestling – specifically Evolve. On July 13, the ten year anniversary show, Evolve 131, will be broadcast live on the WWE Network. I was just at Evolve 129 and if you’ve never heard of this little promotion, well with their WWE affiliation and my writing about them, you’re soon to learn much more. I’ve been going to many Evolve shows in Queens, NY since February of 2017. I’ve seen Matt Riddle vs Drew Galloway (McIntyre). I’ve seen Zack Sabre Jr win the Evolve championship. I was 5 feet away when Ethan Page threw Darby Allin from a stage, across a gap, and into the ring post. I’ve watched Keith Lee defeat Matt Riddle for the Evolve title in a last man standing match where neither man left the ring and it was incredible. I’ve seen NXT UK Champion Walter do a single man tower of doom spot bringing Lee, Riddle, and Tracy Williams all crashing to the mat. I’ve seen some incredible matches, witnessed amazing moments, and gotten to know superstars before they’ve ever made it to WWE. And now with the involvement of WWE and NXT, we, as fans, get treated to even more exciting moments.
This past weekend I watched Tyler Breeze wrestle AR Fox and it was magnificent. Since taking the “demotion”, Tyler Breeze has been able to remind us all of how good he really is. If you’ve never heard of AR Fox, go out of you way to check him out on YouTube. If he ever gets the call, look out! We also got treated to Roderick Strong, with Fish and O’Reilly in tow, take on Anthony Henry and that was another stellar bout. One guy to keep a look out for, current Evolve Champion Austin Theory. He was 19 when I first saw him in 2017, shook his hand a couple months later, kid got a haircut, got ripped, and is just a phenomenal talent at this young age.
Now, I write this because I would like to encourage you to check out a local promotion. There’s a lot of good to be found on the independents these days. Hell, Jon Moxley wrestled for NEW a couple of weeks ago in a high school gym! These small shows are just terrific for wrestling fans like us. Where I saw Evolve, La Boom dance club, there couldn’t have been more than 300 people. And it’s great because you’re sitting next to someone who loves wrestling just as much as you do. You can strike up conversations with anyone and start waxing poetic about Eric Bischoff’s contribution to the business and how it’s ridiculous Kenny Omega was upset at the WWE offering competition to their own July 13 show. The performers are out there giving it their all to wow the small crowd and to get noticed. Being that close to the action, the feats of athleticism are even more spectacular. It’s a really great way to watch live wrestling without the glitz and glamour and over-production. Evolve puts out a great product and I hope you check them out on July 13 on the WWE Network.
Now, onto the main show. Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff are back as Executive Directors of Raw (Heyman) and SmackDown Live (Bischoff). I was talking to a stranger at Evolve 129 about this (see?) and we decided that while it may not be the solution it is definitely something. And at this point all we want is something. Anything. And lo and behold we got exactly that this week. Raw started off with one of those angles that made you think, even if only for a second, is that real? Well, obviously we know it was worked with Stroman and Lashley but Graves throwing in a “Holy Sh*t” live on TV and the fixed camera angle even I, for a moment, was completely sold. The show was better paced, though it did feel a little “crash TV” at times but that’s okay. Again, it was something different and that’s all I need right now. There was more wrestling, AJ’s heel turn, and more things that made sense.
Smackdown felt better this week as well. There were more, albeit shorter, matches but they were good. Ember Moon and Mandy Rose was a fun, short match. Kevin Owens hosting Shane McMahon and not wanting to read from the cards was a lot of fun for me as was his mockery of Dolph Ziggler. KO turning on Dolph after their loss was fantastic as well, though I’m a mark for anything KO. And Kofi Kingston refusing to shake Samoa Joe’s hand and instead giving him the middle finger was excellent.
Simplicity is the key here. As I said in my first column, wrestling doesn’t have to be complicated. Give me someone to cheer for and someone to boo and let them wrestle. I’ll say it again – Let Them Wrestle. That is what is going to get those ratings back. These are fantastic athletes and performers. Let them perform. Don’t script them. If they suck at promos then teach them. Allow Seth Rollins to go out and show why he thinks he’s the best in the world instead of spouting off on Twitter.
Speaking of Seth Rollins…
I hate this storyline with Becky Lynch and their real life relationship. Unless we’re going to have inter-gender wrestling soon (hello Jordynne Grace) please stop doing mixed tag matches and for the life of me I can’t figure out why they think it’s a good idea to parade their relationship on the screen. It makes them both look weaker! Becky Lynch is The Man. Having her stand next to “her man” and look up at him and smile and try to act normal completely kills her gimmick for me. And the same with Rollins! The puppy dog eyes when she’s around makes me immediately forget about how much of a bad-ass he was two weeks ago. Bring the Chairman back! (Or at least sign LA Parka to do it). This is pro wrestling. If I wanted real life I’d watch America’s Got Talent or American Ninja Warrior. Let them wrestle. Let them perform. And stop making them corporate robots!