- The most notable news of the week is undoubtedly Daniel Bryan vacating the WWE Intercontinental Championship. Bryan’s had a lot of injury troubles in his WWE tenure, which likely has a lot to do with him pushing himself so hard. I haven’t seen a ton of his latest matches so it’s possible he has toned his style down some. I remember this as a big critique of CM Punk week-to-week actually, people disappointed that he didn’t seem to “turn it on” for Raws. I’m also fairly sure that Punk addressed this directly by saying that he wanted to preserve his body for longer. With WWE’s schedule, not only in working dates but in travel, that sort of attitude might serve one well. That said, a lot of the appeal Daniel Bryan has is precisely in that he seems to give it his all every single night, and Bryan personally has always seemed like an overworker so I’m not sure that he’d even start to think that way.
For the belt itself, who knows? As ever it’s tough to know exactly what’s going on in WWE’s title scene. It seems like John Cena is on the downturn as far as card position these days, I don’t think he’s been heavily in the title picture since he lost it last year. Could put him in range for the IC belt but I think with him holding the US title that makes it somewhat unlikely. The mainstays here are Wade Barrett and Dolph Ziggler, both of whom seem pretty well stuck around this level. Outside of them there is an array of plausible contenders. While this might seem pretty good from the perspective of having potential match-ups, I feel like it really shows the disorganization of the WWE system and their inability to build up credible challengers. The reason that WWE has a lot of plausible contenders for their titles is that everyone’s basically on the same level: losing and winning interchangeably with no one gaining real momentum.
Tough for me to say who I’d like to see win the belt. The guys I like on the roster right now (and who aren’t injured) are… Dean Ambrose, I think, and that’s about it. But since Ambrose has already been the US champ for an extended reign, I’m really not sure what there is to see from an Ambrose Intercontinental reign. Anyway, I’m sure we’ll see soon enough how WWE decides to deal with the situation. Best of luck to Daniel Bryan and hopefully we’ll see him in the ring again before too long.
- Point number two in the round-up is none other than Jeff Jarrett‘s Global Force Wrestling. Jarrett and his crew have been going around the American southwest throwing out pitches at minor league games and drumming up interest for their coming shows. Not living in the area and therefore not being able to see Jarrett’s fabulous pitching live, I can only read what’s been going on with it so far. And what’s been going on with it is not altogether inspiring. The main exhibit here is the fact that GFW has TV tapings scheduled and hasn’t yet announced a TV network (to my knowledge, maybe it’s hiding out there in some random spot). So we’ve got typical Jarrett-ian hubris and overreach just to kick things off.
Right now, they have announced a few live events and then their TV tapings. And very recently they announced that these tapings will crown not one, not two, but four champions. Why are they gonna crown four champions? How will we know where everybody’s going to slot? No idea. What it puts me in mind of is not a serious promotion. This makes me think of like a hobby wrestling league. Jarrett has been pitching this as a big deal but this seems so slapdash that I can’t take it seriously. The only way this works is that if we’re supposed to already see these guys as stars, and unfortunately, that’s not how it goes in most places. Pro Wrestling Guerrilla can get away with it to an extent because they know their audience is predominantly indy fans who follow all the stuff, but even though tend to build their people a bit. GFW’s promotional work so far has definitely been geared towards a mainstream audience but they are not bringing the guns they need to if they want to make a splash in that area.
We’ve got a roster including a wide variety of guys that have been on TV and didn’t really do a lot there, which is not that inspiring. For some of these, like The Young Bucks and DH Smith/Davey Boy Jr., their TV careers don’t really tell the full story. But for guys like Cassidy Riley, Chase Stevens, Jigsaw, etc., you sort of wonder where the meat is. It’s not that anybody they’ve drafted is bad, it’s more that GFW seemingly has not gone out of its way to grab notable names. This’d be a problem in general but especially for how GFW is being set-up, the lack of any guys who can clearly be pointed to as “the guy” makes it hard to get interested before the thing debuts. That said, I don’t really know that there’s a bigger name out there that they can really work with. Drew Galloway and John Morrison (he’s worked under a variety of names post-WWE) are both more-or-less active, and given that Tyrus/Brodus Clay is apparently still working TNA, there’s a chance that they might’ve been drafted in. At the same time, their name value wouldn’t boost things massively.
As it stands, the GFW project still doesn’t interest me. I’m glad guys like Jamin Olivencia and Jigsaw will be getting a shot here, Olivencia in particular is a guy who at the very least hasn’t worked around to the level I always felt he should. Prediction is that despite all this TV show noise, Jarrett’s group will slot in around where Pro Wrestling Syndicate or AAW is: people are working there but if there’s somebody worth knowing 9 times out of 10 they’ll be working somewhere else as well and likely doing better there. If Jarrett can prove me wrong I’d be pleasantly surprised. I just don’t think the climate is there.
- Chris Sabin actually had his first match back in Ring of Honor on this past episode of the TV show, one-on-one against Kyle O’Reilly. It wasn’t the grandest comeback of all time but that certainly wasn’t what Sabin was going for. He was a cheeky, sneaky bastard from even before the match and he played that shit up to the T. He does have a really good mischievous face and a pretty good head for creative tricks. That said, for my money, there was a little too much cheating going on for me to really enjoy the match. It didn’t seem so much that Sabin was trying to beat O’Reilly than that he wanted to show how sneaky and mean he was. I mean I’m sure that was the subtext of the match but I would have liked to see it play out a little more subtly, Sabin give a little more of a fuck about either badly hurting O’Reilly or about just defeating him. I don’t really have any doubt that Sabin will be able to hit the high gear of an ROH main event but I’m not sure how it’ll come off, and unfortunately this match didn’t really give a lot of insight there.
- And to close this round-up off, we’ve got the released block listings for this year’s NJPW‘s Best of the Super Juniors tournament. Being an unabashed gaijin fanboy I can’t help but be a little bit miffed that Ring of Honor didn’t get to field more people — only reDRagon, already known to the New Japan audience, will be going over — but I’m glad that Chase Owens gets to go back. What I think Owens really wants is a spell either in the New Japan dojo and working for them regularly or just to work outside the confines of the NWA, cause NWA does not have the best people right now and that means there are less chances to progress. But hopefully he does well cause I have liked what he’s done in New Japan so far.
– block A: Barbaro Cavernario • Baretta • Chase Owens • Gedo • Jushin Thunder Liger • Kyle O’Reilly • Ryusuke Taguchi • Yohei Komatsu
– block B: Alex Shelley • Bobby Fish • David Finlay • KUSHIDA • Mascara Dorada • Nick Jackson • Rocky Romero • Tiger Mask IV
Two things that stand out immediately is that the top four junior heavyweight tag teams — The Young Bucks, reDRagon, Time Splitters, and Roppongi Vice — are in the tournament, but only Shelley & KUSHIDA will actually be in the same block. What this means for the future of that team I’m not sure; it could be nothing, but as wrestling fans know, coincidence is rarely without consequence. I’m sure we’re going to see lots of action in the Jr. Tag situation as these guys all fight over slights they’ve got in the past and try to pin either of the Jacksons to earn a title match.Guys I’m not familiar with are Barbaro Cavernario, Gedo (who I know but mostly by reputation, not work), Yohei Komatsu, and David Finlay (son of Fit Finlay). Finlay’s name here is interesting because his dad is certainly not a junior heavy. It could be that David is still filling out and will bring a heavyweight style to proceedings. We’ll have to see. However, I don’t think any of these guys is very likely to actually take it. Sight unseen I would say that David Finlay will have an okay run but, beyond that, no idea.
And who’ll win it all? That one’s even tougher. The prize this year is an exclipicit shot at the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, currently held by one (wildly overacting) Kenny Omega. NJPW’s junior heavyweight field has actually been pretty dry recently as far as contenders, and Omega has already vanquished three: Taguchi, Dorada, and Shelley. I can see Taguchi, who’s been the veteran hand of the division, making a strong run at the finals but not quite make it. My money on the winner right now is KUSHIDA, using the Shelley fight as a major springboard. However, I wouldn’t put it past them to give someone else the nod, especially if they’re going to have Omega beat them. Right now I’m seeing KUSHIDA as the main native hope for this title (with Ibushi apparently working heavy now) and I’m not sure they want to squash that with a title loss. Lots of questions that’ll come out of this tournament. And, of course, a lot of excellent matches.