Sports

Wednesday Night’s Alright: Ripley Caged And Miro Unchained

In theory, this is the last week that AEW Dynamite and NXT will be on different nights, at least for a while. On the other hand, rumors persist that USA may move NXT to Tuesdays permanently. If that happens, we’ll cross that bridge, but for now, Wednesday Night’s Alright lives. So let’s get down to business.

Exciting Arrival: Miro

At last, the wrestler formerly known as Rusev is in AEW. I wrote last week about how wrestlers who leave WWE for other companies can benefit from the narrative that WWE held them back, and I’m not sure that’s more true for any single performer than it is for Miroslav “Rusev” Barnyashev, who for years just kept finding ways to get over with fans that WWE would immediately put the kibosh on.

Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t care for the segment itself, and the last thing I really wanted to see Miro doing outside of WWE is a wedding angle. For now, my excitement at seeing him in the company is enough to overcome those concerns, plus I’d honestly rather see him come into AEW is a smiling gamer guy with bleach blond hair and a pink Gucci Mickey Mouse shirt than as another big built-up monster guy who just gets fed to one of the champions inside of a month.

We’ve all seen how AEW likes to do things, and there’s definitely a world where, like, Nikita Koloff came out in a suit and warned that Jon Moxley’s days as AEW World Champion are numbered because the Beast From Bulgaria is coming for him. After contemplating that option, I’m happy to see Miro goof around with Kip Sabian for a while, have some good tag team matches, and then find his way into the main event organically over time. Miro no longer works at the whim of an easily-distracted old man who dislikes him. In other words, there’s no need to rush.

Runners Up

Kushida returned to NXT after a few weeks away, for an attack on Velveteen Dream. On the one hand, everyone is in the mood to see Velveteen Dream get beaten down by a babyface. On the other hand, it seems like most people would be thrilled to not see Velveteen Dream at all. Whether you believe the allegations about Dream or not, the tide of public opinion has turned on him in a massive way, and I’m not sure there’s any getting past it.

Tay Conti made her in-ring debut on Dynamite this week, in a losing effort against Nyla Rose. Hikaru Shida was there to help Tay to her feet and protect her from further beatings at the hands of Nyla, which is obviously meant to build to another Shida/Rose match. It also seems to put Tay in an interesting position, looking very much like the babyface here while possibly getting recruited into the Dark Order by her friend Anna Jay. It would be nice to think this is all part of a story that AEW has mapped out, but let’s be honest, it seems doubtful. In any case, Conti always seemed to have a lot of potential in NXT, and it will be fascinating to see how she fares as a relatively larger fish in a much smaller pond.

Best Elevation: Sonny Kiss goes toe-to-toe

Sonny Kiss and Joey Janela fought Chris Jericho and Jake Hager, and I began to wonder if Sonny Kiss was going to be Jericho’s next personal project, now that he’s made a hero of Orange Cassidy. I don’t think that’s where this is going, but making Sonny look good (despite eventually taking the pin) was clearly one of the secondary goals of this match.

Seeing a guy like Jake Hager sell for Sonny Kiss feels like a big deal, and it makes Sonny feel like a more legit competitor who can believably fight more of the roster. As a queer wrestling fan who really likes the way Sonny represents and carries himself, this means a lot to me. I’m glad we’re seeing more of him on TV, and I hope that trend continues.

Runners Up

Shotzi Blackheart found herself side-by-side with NXT Women’s Champion Io Shirai in a confrontation with Robert Stone and Aliyah. That led directly to one of those “Ooooh, I’m touching your title belt!” moments, which in turn is leading to a match between Io and Shotzi next week. Shotzi’s come pretty far pretty fast in NXT, and this is the next big step.

She’s not going to win the championship anytime soon, but in the long run it’s not unlikely, and this feud leads down that path. It looks like next week is a non-title match, so hopefully she can win it and then lose the title match it earns her. Then later, when she’s up for another title shot down the road, everyone can be like, “Shotzi’s legit. Remember when she beat Io Shirai?”

Best Promo: Tully Blanchard and FTR

So apparently Tully Blanchard’s still got it, promo-wise? This certainly isn’t the first time we’ve heard him talk in the last year of AEW, but it’s the first time I remember thinking, “Damn, that’s a Tully Blanchard promo!” Working with FTR, who so clearly view themselves as spiritual successors to him and Arn, has really brought out the best in Tully.

After Tully preached about Fearing The Revelation for a bit, Dax and Cash did that fun heel thing where they ran down the tag team division to their faces. I loved the bit with SCU where Cash was saying “We grew up watching you! Imagine if we’d gotten to fight you in your prime!” while Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian just looked at each other like “Can you believe this punk right now?”

Pretty soon they picked a fight with Jurassic Express and things descended into a brawl, but by then they’d already established he kind of champs they’re going to be, and the kind of promos we can expect from them, and it’s all very exciting.

Runners Up

AEW Dynamite started with a really funny bit where Tony Schiavone simultaneously interviewed Chris Jericho and MJF, who insincerely put each other over, then they turned and walked away in opposite directions, and in a split screen they immediately put each other down. It’s always magic when Jericho and MJF interact, and I’m glad they only let it happen occasionally.

Kenny Omega and Hangman Adam Page each had interview segments to talk about their loss and the rift between them. It’s obvious that story is still just getting started, which I realize sounds funny considering they’ve been hinting at it for like a year. Jake the Snake and Lance Archer also had a weird promo where hey stood in the rain, and Jake talked about getting wet in an unsettlingly suggestive manner.

Then of course there was Matt Hardy in the ring addressing his injury last week. He never said the word “concussion” or any other specific description of the nature of his injury, but he did make it sound like he might be out for a little while recovering. And maybe when he comes back, he doesn’t need to leap off of any scissor lifts … oh, who am I kidding? He’s a Hardy, of course he needs that.

Best Match: Mercedes Martinez vs Rhea Ripley in a Steel Cage

This was actually a really good week for matches, but the one I was the most excited to see lived up to its hype. Mercedes Martinez hasn’t even done all that much in NXT since she signed, but we already knew she was a killer when she got here, especially after her Mae Young Classic 2018 performance. Rhea Ripley, on the other hand, has long since proven herself the toughest woman in NXT and NXT UK. She came out of her feud with Charlotte Flair a bit bruised, but she’s been on the rise again.

There are rumors that Mercedes is on her way to Raw to be part of Retribution, which would explain why she was kicked out of the Robert Stone Brand after this match. I do worry about how the call-up’s going to go, because, you know, pessimism, but I can’t deny she’s more than ready for the big leagues. And if she is leaving, Martinez/Ripley in a steel cage is one of those things you want to make sure you do while you have the chance.

Despite Rhea’s theme song, some of the brutality in this match definitely belonged to Mercedes. I loved how she came out and immediately went for weapons before getting in the cage. This is a woman who knows what she’s about. Another great touch was Robert Stone getting knocked out while attempting to climb into the cage, and spending the rest of the match draped over the top of it, oblivious to everything else going on.

I’m sure this isn’t the last time we’ll see these two paired together, but if they’re about to go to different rosters, it may be a while. In the meantime, we’ll have this match to look back on fondly.

Runners Up

On Dynamite, Brodie Lee vs Dustin Rhodes made me really happy because I love both of those guys, and I love seeing them in the main event slot fighting for a title and being treated like a big deal. And if you’re open to big hossy middle-aged ex-WWE guys, it was a really good match too.

Adam Cole and Finn Bálor had the other big match on NXT, resolving last week’s Fatal Four-Way for the NXT Championship that went to a tie between them. Bálor got the win here, which was the right choice for sure. Both of them have had long NXT Championship runs already, but Finn’s was years ago and Adam’s only ended this year. If Cole had won the belt here it would have felt like “Oh, we’re doing more of this now?” whereas Finn is a completely different character than when he was champ before.

Orange Cassidy and Angelico had a nice little match that mostly served to remind us that Cassidy is a hell of a wrestler and can easily beat guys who seem to be working way harder than him.

Finally, Bronson Reed beat Austin Theory in a good showing for both of them. I’m really enjoying Reed’s gradual build into somebody that matters, although I am a little sad that they seem to have stopped referring to Bronson as “a Thicc Boi” in favor of “Colossal.” To be fair, I feel like a I probably preferred “Thicc Boi” for the exact same reasons NXT got rid of it as soon as somebody got online and saw what it means.

That’s all for this week. I’ll be back next week when both shows will (hopefully?) be back on Wednesday night!

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