Weekly Wrasslin' Wroundup (May 18-22)

About the only upside to have been fighting a cold for the past week is that it left me a lot of time to watch wrestling. And there was a lot of wrestling this week, with a WWE pay per view, a double-length NXT, and the return of New Japan Pro Wrestling World on AXS TV. But with all that, WWE just barely ekes out the top spot with...

WWE NXT TAKEOVER: UNSTOPPABLE:

...which came out of the gate with extra juice, as Tyler Breeze and Finn Balor both got tweaked ring gear and amped up entrances. Finn Balor is the only man on the planet who can get "Holy shit" chants for walking to the ring, and he deserves them, but credit where credit is due - I like Breeze's new Glam Shazam cape. Their match, which was going to include Itami before his big injury, was solid, if a bit on the short side. I like Breeze, but Balor needed to win here, and he did.

The women's tag match proved once again that Charlotte should be tearing it up on the main roster, Bayley should finally win the NXT belt, Emma's stalled out, and Dana Brooke needs a lot of work, maybe in TNA. Corbin/Rhyno was mainly interesting to see what Corbin could bring in the ring to a long match, and could he win the Full Sail crowd over with his performance? The answer was no,, on both counts. was no.

The tag titles match tells you everything that's wrong with the tag division right now. The champs have spent most of their reign using NXT t-shirts as entrance gear, which is a clear sign of a lack of personality. The challengers are hugely over despite having eight moves between them. And they should have gotten the belts, but there are no other teams to fight them, so instead, the finish was used to get over... a heel turn for Alexa Bliss? Whee.

The women's title match was excellent as usual in NXT. The emphasis on grappling and submissions was new, if a bit sloppy at times, but told a good story and Becky Lynch is still a few months away from being ready to hold the belt.

Zayn-Owens was... weird. They started the match working slow and brawly outside the ring, and made it work because of how they carry themselves, but the match never got up to speed before Owens powerbombed Zayn into the apron, then did his beating on a hurt opponent schtick until Samoa Joe debuted to save the day. The last ten minutes of the show were Joe and Owens posing at each other and Owens backing down, which was really odd pacing. I have to assume Zayn's injury was worse than reported and that he wasn't up to a regular match. Shockingly, Samoa Joe debuted in NXT as "Samoa Joe", not a WWE trademarkable renaming or even a Rhyno-style respelling.

Overall, not as good as I wanted it to be, but plenty good enough to take the top spot away from...

LUCHA UNDERGROUND

...which built the show around the trios ladder match, which was fabulous and had a great ending, but let's not go to the Angelico leaping off the office well for at least six more matches. I'm sure it's safer than it looks, especially in dropkick form like this week, but it should be kept as a special thing. I was hoping for Evilisse climbing the ladder, broken ankle and all, to win the match, and I was not disappointed.

The rest of the show, though... I'm looking forward to the return of Mil Muertes and the advancing of the Black Lotus story, especially because it comes with more hooks into Dario Cueto's mysterious monster brother, but I'm not a fan of the Marty The Moth thing, and I'm very not a fan of Tejano suddenly being a face because he's wrestling Daivari. Tejano was an evil bastard a month ago wrestling Alberto El Patron. Also, Daivari + Big Ryck doesn't help either of them. Still, great ladder match, so I'll give it the edge over...

NEW JAPAN PRO WRESTLING WORLD

...which returned to the schedule this week with the semi-finals and final of the 2014 Best of the Super Juniors tournament.

It opens with Taichi vs Kushida, which ended up being a very fast paced match, over quickly, with tons of shenanigans going on, including an old-school unprotected chair shot to Kushida's head before the match even starts. Kushida wins out of nowhere with a submission move, but it was a fun, frenetic match with lots of personality.

The other semifinal featured Ricochet vs Ryusuke Taguchi. I know Ricochet as Lucha Underground champion Prince Puma, so this is the first time I've seen him wrestle unmasked. He's fucking fantastic. Unlike the previous match, this is a face vs. face "spirit of competition" style match. Taguchi can't quite match him move for move, but they also cut a chunk out of the middle of the match to fit the finals in the hour. I would have liked to see the whole thing, but since Ricochet won, I get to see him in the final.

The final was another face vs. face match. Absolutely incredible stuff here, with Kusbida working Ricochet's left arm (and Ricochet selling it through the entire match), tons of counters, Kushida kicking out of the 630 Senton that won Prince Puma the championship, and a finishing sequence that was off the charts. I can't give NJPWW matches match of the week, because they're cherry-picking the best from the last two years of Japanese wrestling, but hot damn.

And next week we get the title shot for the Junior Heavyweight championship Ricochet earned by winning Best of the Super Juniors, so that should be glorious as well. And also better than...

WWE PAYBACK...

I don't understand any of this. A three minute match where The Ascension beats up the Fake Mega-Powers in the pre-show? Why put that together if you're not going to run with it? I don't care how awful an idea it is. Sheamus winning clean after a long match with Dolph Ziggler? I don't know exactly what Sheamus' strengths are, but I know they're not maintaining interest while being dominant for most of ten minutes. Ryback/Wyatt has never made any goddamned sense, and this match did nothing to change that. Unless the point was to show that Ryback couldn't do his part on a goddamned snap mare for fuck's sake.

And that Cena/Rusev match... dear sweet merciful fuckmonkeys, that went on forever for no real purpose. For a match that represented the end of their feud, a bunch of staged, occasionally botched garbage spots with minutes of padding between them, only to try and convince us that John Cena's finisher is somehow unspeakably painful if a ring rope is involved, well, let's call it less than ideal.

On the upside, New Day and Kidd/Cesaro had another great match, and if you're going to have New Day retain, and the feud continue, that's the way to do it. But WWE? Maybe rethink the politics of having three black guys preach to Baltimore about the power of positivity. Neville and Barrett had a decent match with a weird, pointless finish. And the main event was a perfectly acceptable transitional clusterfuck championship match to kill time until the next "real" pay per view, Summerslam. But overall, a dud of a show, with the tag match elevating it slightly above...

WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW

...which had one job to do. Set up a bunch of matches for an impromptu, hastily added Elimination Chamber even in two weeks. Most of this happened by fiat, as the participants in the Chamber matches for the IC and Tag Team championships were just announced. The IC competitors are mostly being pulled from the same pool that's been hovering around the midcard since Wrestlemaina. Barrett, Ziggler, and Sheamus all make sense. Rusev needs something new to do, so he's fine. Ryback and R-Truth should really be swapped out for Neville and Bo Dallas, but the latter two are probably going to end up on the pre-show. Or the Smackdown before the show if there's no pre-show.

The tag match has been pulled from the entire tag division, aka The New Day, Kidd/Cesaro, and four teams you never see because New Day and Kidd/Cesaro have been wrestling each other for two months. Ambrose gets a championship match by threatening to maim someone, which was bad when Seth Rollins did it to Edge to get the Authority back but OK now.

The only exciting thing is Kevin Owens coming out, powerbombing John Cena to hell, stepping on the US Championship, and getting a match against Cena for Elimination Chamber. I'd love to see Owens beat Cena and make a huge splash in the WWE, but I can't imagine it'll happen, since WWE seems to think Cena's doing everyone a favor just by taking ten minutes to beat them. But even Kevin Owens' main roster show debut only made Raw a bit better than...

...was better than...

WWE SMACKDOWN

...which had the advantage of just needing to forward all the stories haphazardly set up on Raw, and made good use of it during the first hour, but just turned into the usual Smackdown bullshit in the second hour.