1/8/15 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
Wrestler of the Week – Shinsuke Nakamura
Nakamura started the week with an amazing match against AJ Styles in the semi-main event at NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom 10. They worked a smart, snug, compelling match that had enough variation in styles that it would satisfy any sort of wrestling fan. Nakamura’s pleasing aesthetic had apparently been noticed by WWE, as well, because rumors of his departure (with Styles, Doc Gallows, and Karl Anderson) dominated dirt sheets for the rest of the week. If Nakamura indeed jumps ship at the end of the month, he will come to the US as a different sort of Japanese export. His charisma and showmanship are world class and will translate into any promotion. Regardless of where he lands on a WWE card, he will make that part of the show more fun to watch. My pet theory is that he would be extraordinary as a Paul Heyman client.
Match of the Week – Kazuchika Okada def. Hiroshi Tanahashi to Retain the IWGP Heavyweight Title
In addition to the outstanding Nakamura-Styles match, Wrestle Kingdom featured a main event between Okada and Tanahashi for the third time in four years. Despite the frequency of that pairing, the matchup still felt meaningful because it was only the eighth singles match between the superstars in their careers. Tanahashi spent the match working on Okada’s knee while Okada focused on Tanahashi’s neck. Each wrestler kicked out of several signature moves and they even traded each other’s finishers. In the end, Okada got the pin with his Rainmaker Lariat. The match was a passing of the torch, of sorts. Even though Okada came in as the champion, his two previous losses to Tanahashi on NJPW’s biggest stage crated a hole in his resume. Now, before he has even turned 30, Okada has unquestionably reached the pinnacle.
Must See Wrestling
- Roman Reigns Overcomes McMahon Scheme
Vince McMahon did his best to stack the deck against Reigns when he defended his WWE Title against Sheamus on Raw. He made himself the guest referee and clearly favored Sheamus to the point that he eventually refused to make a count on a Reigns cover. Reigns eventually tore through Sheamus, McMahon, and crooked referee Scott Armstrong before a neutral referee finally made the count. Reigns in the role of a superhero who can overcome any obstacle is a little too black-and-white for my tastes, but so many fans responded positively to the broadly-drawn morality play that it is hard to argue with WWE’s direction.
- Smackdown Moves to USA
With outstanding MMA announcer Mauro Ranallo on the stick, Smackdown aired on USA Network for the first time on Thursday. The show featured a solid, lengthy match between Charlotte and Becky that saw the champion cheat to retain her belt. It also included a main event between Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose that ended in a double count-out and a brawl into the stands. I long for the days when Smackdown was a stripped-down, straightforward wrestling program. I hope that the most recent set of programming changes helps it get away from its recent status as the unwanted stepchild of Raw.
- TNA Debuts on POP TV
For the second time in the last year, TNA relaunched its flagship show on a new network. Once again, the change appears to be mostly cosmetic. EC3 and Matt Hardy are slated to continue their main event feud. Awesome Kong took over for Taryn Terrell in the Dollhouse. I try to be open-minded about TNA because there is real talent on the roster, but it’s painful to watch them make the same mistakes over and over again.