Sports

Wednesday Night’s Alright: Going Full Rat Pack

Welcome to Wednesday Night’s Alright, my Uproxx Sports column where we compare AEW Dynamite and WWE NXT, the two shows that air on the best night of the week for wrestling. This week was a pretty strong one for both shows, with AEW running the first round of their #1 Contenders’ Tournament, and NXT preparing for Halloween Havoc.

Most Worthwhile Squash Match: Ember Moon vs. Jessi Kamea

Ember Moon needed to dominate a solo match to establish herself upon returning from injury and, before that, the main roster. Jessi Kamea gives her that, while looking strong enough (and certainly tall enough) to seem like a formidable contender. Most importantly, it led somewhere. Specifically, it led to Dakota Kai coming out and attacking Ember afterwards, setting them up for a feud going forward. I was sort of hoping they’d go ahead and make that match for Halloween Havoc, but I can wait if we have to.

Runners Up
Kenny Omega mega-squashed Sonny Kiss in the first round of AEW’s tournament. It was kind of a shame to see Sonny done that way, but it did establish this new heel Kenny as a force to be reckoned with. I think the real point, though, was Kenny’s new entrance, in which the announcer lists all his achievements (including having wrestled in North Carolina) while two bikini girls dance with brooms. It’s the heelest thing ever.

Britt Baker also made short work of KiLynn King, because nobody loves a jobber squash more than the AEW Women’s division.

Meanwhile, on the show where women get stories besides just chasing the title, Kacy Catanzaro volunteered to have a match with her friend Xia Li, who’s been on a losing streak and starting to flip out about it. Of course, when Kacy won, Xia fully flipped out and attacked her and Kayden Carter. Just when we were getting our first real look at the villainous Xia to come, Raquel Gonzales showed up to make it all about her and Rhea Ripley. And that’s probably fine, in the long run. I’m just interested to see Xia as a heel. She’s got a lot of promise, and I feel like this evolution of her character could be where she really comes into her own. I’m also hoping she follows the Usos’ lead, and switches from her culturally stereotyped gear to badass street clothes, something like the look she posted on Instagram today.

I’m not sure that Drake Maverick and Killian Dain vs Ever-Rise counts as a squash match, but it was super short and I don’t want to invent a new category for it. Maverick and Dain only lost because Drake lost his cool, beat Ever-Rise with a chair, and got himself and Dain DQed. Naturally this is the first thing he’s done that really impressed Dain, winning the big man over a bit. He’s still not into the music, but you can see he’s accepting the team-up. I really enjoy the Martin Prince and Nelson Muntz energy that Drake and Killian give off, and I’m looking forward o more of it.

Best Completely Unexpected Moment: Song & Dance

It’s not like this is the first musical number ever to happen on a wrestling show, but it’s certainly not something we’re used to seeing. Especially growing out of Jericho and MJF’s previously announced “steak dinner” which I think we expected to be all dialogue and maybe some jabs at “Table for 3.” This was way better.

It helps a lot, of course, that Jericho and MJF can both sing for real. Jericho’s rock star voice isn’t made for his sort of thing, but he’s not painfully out of his element. MJF, on the other hand, is fully in his element, and out-sings Jericho by a wide margin.

It was also smart that they chose a Rat Pack song, specifically “Me and My Shadow,” made famous by Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. That boozy, jocular, Vegas style is a good match for Jericho and MJF, and I wouldn’t mind seeing them do something like this again someday (but not too soon).

Runners Up

Aside from a couple of unmaskings that I’ll get to shortly, the only complete surprise I can think of is an appearance by Steve-O of Jackass. He’s helping Darby Allin train by getting him to do dangerous Jackass stunts that have nothing to do with wrestling. This is completely believable as far as how Allin would train, to be honest.

Best Feud About The Entire History of Wrestling in the 21st Century: Jon Moxley vs Eddie Kingston

Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston are going to have an “I Quit” match at Full Gear, and it’s all about how Eddie stayed in the indies while Jon went to WWE, and the different paths their lives took from there. It’s good stuff, in large part because it seems really rooted in truth. Kingston and Moxley represent two routes that wrestlers (and most artists, really) can take. One stayed independent, one went corporate, and now that both those paths have led them to the same place their mutual resentment is spilling over. I can’t even imagine how brutal that “I Quit” match is going to be, especially since it’s almost impossible to imagine either of these guys ever saying those words.

Runner Up

I don’t know that there’s anything else that fits this extremely specific category, although I guess you could say that Kushida and Tommaso Ciampa going after Velveteen Dream counts, because it’s two veterans who’ve spent the last fifteen years toiling away at wrestling versus a young cocky guy who got discovered on a TV show and might well be a sexual predator. Maybe that’s a bit heavy, but it’s there.

Best Masked Man Reveal: Pat McAfee

In the main event of NXT, Oney Lorcan and Danny Birch won the Tag Team Championship from Breezango with a little help from a masked man. After the match, he celebrated with Oney and Danny in the ring, and finally took off his mask to reveal Pat McAfee, who impressed everybody in his match with Adam Cole a while ago, and now seems to be back to build a faction to take out the Undisputed Era.

Lorcan and Birch are a great start to that faction. They’ve had problems with the UE for a long time, plus turning them heel right when they win the belts should definitely bring out new aspects of their characters.

Runner Up

Tully Blanchard also showed up in a mask to help his boys FTR attack the Young Bucks. It’s not like we didn’t know he was working with FTR, but I sure didn’t know he could still move like that. The question is, why are FTR viciously trying to end the Bucks’ career, when the Bucks have been acting like jerks and superkicking everyone in sight for a month or two now? I don’t mind not having strict, old-fashioned alignments all the time, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to sympathize with somebody who’s been attacking other people and then gets attacked himself. Hopefully they’ll clear all this up in the next couple of weeks, because the match itself should be awesome.

Best Promo: Cameron Grimes

Putting aside Kingston and Moxley, since I gave them their own space, I really enjoyed listening to Cameron Grimes do his mountain-heel thing that I’m so fond of. The best part, though, was his sudden trepidation upon finding out his Halloween Havoc match against Dexter Lumis is a Haunted House of Terror match, which should be fun even if I don’t know exactly what it means.

Actually, no, the best part of this promo was Dexter Lumis staring at Grimes through a window the entire time, without Grimes even noticing. Lumis is going to fit right in in a haunted house. It seems like a safe bet that Cameron will be doing most of the screaming.

Runners Up

Orange Cassidy’s only appearance this week was a weird, short promo that established that even though he’s having big matches now, he’s still Orange Cassidy. He can wrestle when you need him to, but that doesn’t mean he suddenly knows where he is all the time, let alone where he’s going.

Members of the Dark Order and Team Taz also got to talk on AEW this week. Ricky Starks seems like he could be a huge deal some day, and John Silver seems like he could be a bigger deal than anyone saw coming.

Best Match: Pentagon Jr vs Rey Fenix

We all knew this match was going to rule, and it did. A tournament like this is a great excuse to do stuff like brother vs brother, because we can all pretend it’s just the luck of the draw. Of course Penta and Fenix are fine with this. They’ve fought before, and even spent time as enemies. They obviously love each other, but if the job is to destroy each other, they’ll get it done. And they’ll fly through the air and look amazing the entire time they’re doing it.

Runners Up

The other two first-round tournament matches were Jungle Boy versus Wardlow, and Colt Cabana versus Hangman Adam Page. Jungle Boy looked great in a loss, and Hangman looked great in a win. Plus Jim Ross really wants us to know that Wardlow is the kind of athletic big man that a certain former boss of his would love. Personally I’m still looking for more personality from Wardlow, but I imagine that might happen when he breaks away from MJF.

Both shows had strong tag team showings in the main event. AEW had their No. 1 Contenders’ fourway between The Butcher and Blade, Dark Order/Beaver Boys, Private Party, and the Young Bucks. The Bunny is back accompanying Butcher and Blade, which I guess pays off Eddie Kingston yelling “Where’s your wife?” and “Get your house in order!” at the Blade.

Breezango losing to Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan was also a fun watch, with only a little bit of involvement from the Masked McAfee. Wherever this feud goes, I’m excited for the Burch/Lorcan title defenses. I wouldn’t even say no to a Breezango rematch, if they want to do one. Beyond that, I hope Breezango sticks around NXT. It’s not like they’d get any more to do on any other WWE show.

That’s all for this week. Join me next time for more Wednesday Night action!

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