Happy Holidays, wrestling fans.
The Weekend Exit Survey is back, and we got four shows from the majors this weekend. New Japan had their Wrestle Kingdom go-home show, WWE had a taped SmackDown, AEW a taped Rampage, and there was just a ‘Best of 2021’ episode of New Japan Strong. With Christmas being an incredibly busy time for all, I made a business decision to skip the Strong show in the interest of time, you can read previous Weekend Exit Surveys here for thoughts on recent Strong shows.
What was my favorite match of the weekend?
It was Cody Rhodes winning the TNT Championship from Sammy Guevara in the main event of Rampage. For me, it wasn’t quite as good as the match they had on episode one of Dynamite back in October ‘19, but these two do have really good chemistry.
Guevara is one of the four pillars of AEW, so it’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here. Cody gave him a ton in this match, using multiple CrossRhodes and a Tiger Driver to finish the Spanish God. This is Cody’s third reign with the title, which is a record, and I’ll talk more about him later. Having David Crockett present the strap to Cody was a nice touch at the end.
How do we rehab my fellow Aussie, Toni Storm?
After being straight-up humiliated by Charlotte Flair, things looked better for Storm as she pinned Flair in a tag match on last week’s SmackDown. However, Storm failed to defeat Flair in a title match on the pre-taped, very much sweetened Christmas Eve SmackDown.
It was a fun match, the fake crowd noise makes it a little bit hard to enjoy but these are two are immensely talented which helps a ton. These two could’ve had a major multi-PPV program, but I’m not sure Vince McMahon sees it that way. Hopefully, it impressed the boss enough that he puts a pin in Flair-Storm and we can revisit it later this year when Storm has a ton more momentum behind her. But how do you build this momentum? Wins, because they matter.
It’s too soon for Storm to win the Royal Rumble (for what it’s worth, my local sportsbook has her odds at 29-1), but Storm could be in a number of other feuds with her coming out the victor in each and every one of them. Maybe the 2023 Rumble is Toni’s to win?
What is to be made of Cody Rhodes winning the TNT Championship for the third time?
I just want to first say, I didn’t know that Cody had won the title until the show had aired. I have no idea how that news escaped me. Secondly, it was clear that Guevara wasn’t exactly on fire as champion, and I wouldn’t say that’s completely his fault. He had some good matches but the reign didn’t feel important like Brodie Lee’s did, or like with Cody’s first.
There’s definitely something going on with Cody right now. The All Elite fans hate him, and he’d have to be both blind and deaf to not be aware of it. He teased exiting through the heel tunnel a couple of weeks back, but he’s also promised in media interviews that he will never turn heel. I think it’s inevitable that he switches heel as it’s ultimately his strength. A series of TNT title matches where he retains by any means necessary will be a good way to effectively complete the slow-burn turn. At least, until HOOK ends this man’s entire career. As much as that sentence was a bit of a punchline, it’d make sense with their shared past.
I think the TNT, and TBS for that matter, needs to have a certain wrinkle added to it in order to make it unique from the world titles. I think the weekly mandatory TNT title defense idea is good, especially if you do it on Rampage, the show remaining on TNT, and the TBS title defended on every Dynamite.
What is the worst gimmick match and why is it the gauntlet?
The Gauntlet Match is the most unfair, unsportsmanlike format of competition in pro-wrestling. Inferno matches are more fair and sensible than the gauntlet match. Piranha tank, electric barbed wire, exploding turnbuckle, chainsaw on a pole matches make more sense than the gauntlet. Imagine if the NBA playoffs were a gauntlet. Starting with the eight-seed Mavericks playing the seven-seed Lakers, then IMMEDIATELY AFTER THAT GAME, the winner faces the six-seed Nuggets, and so on. It’d just make no sense.
It’s the worst way to determine a challenger, especially in a promotion where pretty much everyone except the world champion of each division is unranked. I don’t know why they don’t do tournaments or even beat-the-clock challenges. It’s one of, maybe my absolute least favorite trends in WWE booking.
Did this go-home show raise my hype for Wrestle Kingdom 16?
Not particularly. There was nothing overly wrong with the show, it’s just the situation wrestling in Japan is in right now. This is not the New Japan Pro-Wrestling of 2017, or even 2019. The promotion is not hot right now for a number of reasons, most stemming from the pandemic.
NJPW hasn’t been able to bring in as many foreign guys as usual and it has led to things like the G1 and other major events lineups’ leaving a little to be desired. Jay White, Jon Moxley, Lance Archer, and more are noticeably absent from the Tokyo Dome this year, but hopefully, all of them and more can return for Wrestle Kingdom 17 show. Don’t even get me started on the crowd noise restrictions.