– If you were with us over the holiday weekend, you might’ve seen our Brock Lesnar: The Beast in the East Live From Tokyo open discussion thread. We love you for getting up that early and hanging out with us, so as a thank you, here’s a recap and rundown of the show. We’re posting it on Monday instead of in the middle of afternoon cookouts so people might actually read it.
– If you missed the show, you can find it on WWE Network here.
– Share the column! If you want more Best and Worst columns about stuff that isn’t main roster TV and NXT, share this around. We’d appreciate it, and maybe the ad revenue from the increased shares will pay off all the coffee we burned trying to watch Kane wrestle at 6 AM.
And now, the Brock Lesnar: The Beast in the East Live From Tokyo.
Beast: Where The Hell Has This Chris Jericho Been, And How Do We Get Him Back Full-Time?
So, WWE BROCK LESNAR: THE BEAST IN THE EAST LIVE FROM TOKYO words words words begins with Neville vs. a guest-starring Chris Jericho, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect much from Jericho. As big of a fan of his work as I’ve been — WCW Conspiracy Victim Jericho is my undisputed favorite wrestling character of all time, and the Best There Is At What I Do suit-wearing Jericho isn’t far behind — my image of modern Jericho is “cool dad.” He clearly knows what he’s doing, but his work since his LED Jacket return had been disappointing. The stuff with Punk wasn’t as good as it should’ve been, the WrestleMania match with Fandango was a disaster area, and his babyface stuff seemed like a relic of a Trash Bag Ho era gone by. He showed up to this looking … well, not great, and I adjusted my expectations accordingly.
Jericho bent those expectations upside down and put a knee in the back of their heads.
Jericho vs. Neville was outstanding, and man, where has this Chris Jericho been for the past five years? If he came back into full-time rotation on WWE shows as this cocky, cagey-ass veteran babyface who derisively kicks you in the face when you’re down and goes into overkill mode to put you away because he’s been here before, dammit and knows what he has to do to survive, sh*t, I’d love him the most. Jericho’s always gone to the extreme on either side of the alignment spectrum, but him as WWE’s version of Genichiro Tenry would be the best. Just let him be tough enough (cough) to defeat some upper-level opponents like Neville, but still be vulnerable enough due to his age to take a fall to a Finn Bálor. Sorta like how Rob Van Dam is treated when he’s around, but with a personality.
But yeah, this was so good. I loved the finish, with Neville over-selling the “wait, I can hit the Red Arrow now” moment and it costing him. Jericho getting the knees up to block it and transitioning straight into the O.G. version of the Walls Of Jericho was applause-worthy, and Jericho should basically only ever wrestle dudes who are like, “yeah, no, it’s fine, Lion Tamer me, it looks better like that, I don’t want to tap to an iffy Boston Crab.” That should be a box you check on your contract to wrestle him.
Beast/Worst: Did We Bring Tamina To Japan?
Match 2 is Nikki Bella vs. Paige vs. Tamina. I’ve watched it twice now, and I’m still not sure what to make of it.
There’s a lot going on. It’s basically nothing but Divas hitting each other with stuff, going for a pin and getting 2. Eventually one of them (Nikki, naturally) gets three. That’s the story. That’s fine, but there’s not really anything to latch onto or pay attention to besides Tamina, because God bless her I can’t see her now without expecting her to trip over the ref, fall backwards with her arms flailing in circles and land with her head in a bucket.
The good news is that they’re clearly busting ass, so that counts for something. The referee didn’t always know what to pay attention to or where to look — the Tower of Doom spot in particular had him paying attention to the wrong person — but they went out there, got their sh*t in and got out. Tamina missing the Superfly Splash is the only time she should be allowed to do it. OH NO SOMETHING WENT WROOOONG *bucket*
Worst: Michael Cole
Cole wasn’t especially terrible on the night, but he shouldn’t be allowed without 100 feet of Japanese names. During the Divas match he talks about “Bull Nukuna” winning the Women’s Championship in Japan in 1994, and when Tatsumi Fujinami shows up after the NXT Championship match he calls him “Fujiyami.” Also, the show is happening in “Tokyo Hall.” I kept hoping Hineo Itoomi would get up from his chair and shotgun kick him in the head.
BEAST: RIP Kofi Kingston, 1981-2015
I’ve heard a lot of “why is Brock Lesnar wrestling KOFI KINGSTON” comments around this show, and the answer is simple: Kofi Kingston gives Brock an easy win, gives him an opponent that can take beautifully gnarly German suplexes — sorry, “Suplex Cities” — and Kofi’s New Day connection gives Brock a fun, post-match murdering spree for the delight of all. What, you want him to wrestle Dean Ambrose and have to wait around for a bunch of rebound lariats? Brock’s at a damn house show, his jobs are KILL WHOMEVER and KILL WHOMEVER.
And oh ho ho ho man, kill whomever he does. 100% Healthy, Full-Power Brock can and should only ever be given a challenge by someone as absurdly overpowered as himself. At WrestleMania he faced a monstrously overpushed and MOTIVATED BY HATERS AND FAMILY Roman Reigns, which is as overpowered as you get, with The Authority’s Golden Boy Seth Rollins with a Money in the Bank briefcase as an exclamation point. That’s like trying to box Mike Tyson while someone at ringside tries to shoot you with a bow and arrow. Before that he faced the most overpowered character in WWE history (the Undertaker at WrestleMania) and the most regularly overpowered guy on the roster (John Cena). If he beats them, he should pretty much make Kofi Kingston into a damn lunchable and physically eat him.
Kofi being caught in mid-air, repositioned like a child’s toy and brutally dumped on his head is everything I’ve ever wanted in a Brock Lesnar match. He got in a little offense, too, which was nice, and his springboard dropkick actually got Brock down to a knee. If anything I ever did knocked Brock to a knee I’d print out pamphlets and hand them to everyone I met.
I kinda wish Big E hadn’t had to be one of the guys getting fed to Lesnar at the end, but I guess in the grand scheme of things he and Xavier Woods are on the same level now. Even The New Day’s stats work under the Freebird rule. And besides, you don’t put a tough guy in front of a rampaging elephant unless you want his ass to get stomped.
Beast: The NXT World Championship
1. Every NXT Championship match going forward should adopt the Japanese championship match pre-match pageantry. I can’t decide which part I loved more, Finn getting a streamer bath, or Kevin Owens getting a bouquet of flowers from a well-meaning Japanese girl and launching them down the ramp.
2. The NXT Championship should now be known as the NXT World Championship, because it’s earned it.
3. This was everything you wanted it to be, and maybe more. This was worth getting up at 5:30 AM (4:30, Texas time) to see. Bálor and Owens got an understated, perfectly-told story to work with and delivered on all fronts. Seriously, think about it. You have Owens as a guy who used mind games and an attack on his best friend to worm his way into a title shot, brute force his way to the championship by trying to end that friend’s career, take the title to Raw to pick on the biggest dog in the yard and win through the sheer stubborn determination to be right. He’s the worst person in the world. Finn Bálor commands a demon, sure, but he’s spend the past three weeks being built up as a lovable, Lego-obsessed saint who is loved by everyone not because he asks for it, but because he’s earned it. He’s the opposite of Owens in every way, down to being this lithe ninja ballerina guy who doesn’t seem to notice that he’s super handsome. Owens is like I’M MARRIED, I HAVE A KID, I’M GREAT, MY FAMILY LOVES ME and looks like I wandered into a wrestling ring. There isn’t this horrible direct grudge, but they’re guys in natural conflict with a reason to clash. It’s good vs. evil as seen through the struggle between a guy who was born exceptional but stayed humble, and a guy who was born humble but demands to be seen as exceptional.
4. They changed the ring skirt to an NXT one, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciated that.
5. The match itself was beautiful. Owens using John Cena’s comeback continues to be great, and him building momentum to drop to a knee and lock in a chinlock is the kind of thing they tell you only works in front of 100 people in an armory, but it’s universal. Bálor got to use his extended moveset including the Bloody Sunday, which the crowd was chanting for. By the way, the crowd for this show was THE BEST, and I never get tired of a Japanese crowd going “oooOOOH” for big transitions and move setups. Them changing “this is awesome” and it not quite sounding right is what I must sound like chanting “culero” at Lucha Underground shows.
The finish was the right call. Owens kicked out of the first Coup De Grâce but not the second, and when Bálor was going up for that final stomp, you knew it was over. All the nearfalls, all the close calls, that climb to the top and perch was set in stone. Owens is moving-slash-moved up to the main roster already, and unless we’re waiting a year for Sami Zayn and Hideo Itami to heal up, the Demon Bálor is the only guy on the show who stood a chance. Owens is wrecking JOHN CENA. Only the supernatural is good enough to top him.
Bálor can reign on top and either let his reliance on The Demon slowly turn him evil (just as Itami heals up and finds out Finn’s the one that jumped him at TakeOver), or you keep him as this beloved guy until someone worth a damn builds enough momentum to seem like a real threat. Right now, the NXT field of contenders is “Tyler Breeze” and “nobody.” What, is Baron Corbin gonna turn into the moonlight werewolf finally and battle a demon?
Uh, can we do that?
6. The post-match handshake with Owens refusing because he’s Kevin Owens was the perfect way to end things. On NXT they love to hug when they’ve had a good match, but Finn just took food out of Kevin Owens’ son’s mouth, so f*ck him.
Beast: I’m Pretending That Neville And Cesaro Are Now In The Bullet Club
I’m pretending Cena and William Regal are in it, too. I love that Cesaro is such a God in NXT that he’s treated like an honorary champion, and that William Regal is still so intimidated by him he doesn’t stick around for conversation. Regal was the only thing missing from the pre-match ceremony, honestly, so I’m glad he was there.
Worst: Damn, Are We Ending The Show With This?
… and the show ends with a 30-minute house show tag team main-event. Yep.
John Cena and Dolph Ziggler team up to face the team of Kane and King Barrett, and if this happened on Raw (and was just Cena against Kane and Barrett) it’d be over in five minutes. Because it’s not, and because you can only fly so many guys to Japan I guess, we stick it out for half an hour of chinlocks and apron clapping.
It’s not bad, I guess, if you like that old stalwart Wrestling For The Sake Of Wrestling. There’s absolutely nothing at stake, and having John Cena on one of the teams makes the match a foregone conclusion before they’ve even stepped into the ring. It’s not even Cena and somebody against Rollins and whoever, it’s Kane and Wade Barrett. Cena might as well have been wrestling the puppeteered corpses of Big E and Xavier Woods.
I probably sat through a thousand matches like this when I was a kid and loved every second of them, so I’m guessing everyone who showed up in John Cena shirts (like that adorable lady in the front row, or the guy with the great CHALLENGE MATCH NOW sign) went home happy. All in all it was a hell of a show with two legitimately great wrestling matches and a Lesnar mauling, and I hope it performed well enough for the Network that they do more shows like it in the future. Give us a live house show from somewhere around the world every Saturday night or something. Send Brock Lesnar to Ireland and have him throw Fit Finlay until he breaks. Give me an NXT Championship match in Canada with Tyler Breeze being especially rude to everyone. Why not? Away games are great.
I’m also requesting a sequel called BROCK LESNAR: THE BEAST IN THE WEST, wherein Lesnar wrestles in a cowboy hat.
Beast: Top 10 Comments Of The Morning
Bull Nakona and Jeff Harvey should have an InterGender match at Summerfest.
Nikki’s shorts will be available in the vending machines behind the merch table.
Also, I loved listening to Cole call the Balor/Owens match. He had no idea what the moves were called. “He’s…he’s done for!”
Mr. Royal Rumble, TheCensoredMSol
As per match stipulation, Kevin Owens is now demoted to the full time main roster.
It’s Kane against the company’s biggest star!!!…
By the way, how’s the live special going? I switched to the 1998 King of the Ring.
“How frustrating is it for Ziggler to just sit there watching Cena?!” – Byron Saxton, summing up the last ten years.
WWE should do documentaries on EVERY NXT superstar because they are always great.
Plus a Bull Dempsey documentary would be amazing.
“You just saw the future of WWE!” “Now here are four boring assholes.”
I just unmuted The TV and i think the arena is even more quiet
Thanks, everybody. See you on Tuesday for the Best and Worst of Domestic Wrestling.