Everyone’s favorite international business relationship was back in full effect this weekend as WWE held their Elimination Chamber premium live event in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the land where Drew McIntyre can wrestle in a speedo and boots but Becky Lynch’s entire body sans hands and face absolutely must be covered.
We also had AAA’s Reye de Reyes and Impact’s No Surrender, two programs from which I cherry-picked matches and moments to peer at—but that’s not all! New Japan held two Golden Series cards as well. Normally with these, I’d watch the whole show, but this was a stupid-busy wrestling weekend, so I only watched top matches. This was all on top of the standard three television programs from WWE, AEW, New Japan.
What was my favorite match of the weekend?
Honorable mentions: The Jay Bowl: Jay White vs Jay Lethal on Strong, Hiroshi Tanahashi vs SANADA on Golden Series Final Night 1.
If you laid out the entire slate of major-league pro-wrestling going into this weekend, Kazuchika Okada defending the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship against Tetsuya Naito would be ridiculously favored, and for good reason, because it absolutely delivered.
These two guys could have a four-star match blindfolded. The chemistry between these titans of the cerulean blue is generational. This was the eleventh singles meeting between them, they were 5–5 going in. Okada’s victory now allows him to hold one over on his long-time rival. For comparison: Okada has had 15 single matches against Hiroshi Tanahashi, the same amount for Naito and Tanahashi. These aren’t match-ups you just put on RAW for a DQ finish.
The closing stretch was remarkable. They managed to get a noise-restricted audience to react as if they were free to hoot and holler as they saw fit. There was a near-fall-of-the-year contender when Naito hit the Stardust Press, convincing this crowd that he’d sealed the deal. Okada soon after used the Rainmaker to lock down the second defense of his crown.
Despite the awful hand that NJPW has been dealt for the last two years, their production value and their presentation of their wrestling, especially the main event scene, is why it is my favorite promotion.
What’s worth checking out from this week’s SmackDown?
Besides Ronda Rousey allegedly slamming Charlotte Flair’s face into a table? Not a lot. If you watch one single thing from this show, watch Shinsuke Nakamura vs Sami Zayn. They had a really fun WWE T.V. match. However, don’t be foolish and think about their special match in Dallas from six years ago. You’ll never see anything resembling that again. Afterward, as soon as you see Ricochet and Aliyah backstage, fast-forward or turn off the show unless you want to see some pseudo-acting.
Is Orange Cassidy the best program for Jay White?
I think this depends on the duration of the program. It would further delineate Switchblade’s standing in the promotion, especially with Orange recently beating Adam Cole (don’t give me the “it doesn’t count”, whether recorded or not, I watched Orange beat Cole). If it’s a one-and-done where White just beats Orange clean, like he should’ve done Trent without a low-blow, then that’s fine. Jay can move on and keep beating guys until he gets something serious to chew on.
Doing a White vs Orange special singles match at Revolution isn’t the right move. If the Rampage announcing team said “Grand Slam Champion” in reference to White less than ten times on this weekend’s episode I’d be aghast. They talk White up as the super-duperstar out of Japan that he is, so putting him in a high-profile, pay-per-view singles match against a comedy guy with a nearly-stale gimmick would be counterproductive. However, if they set it up to be a one-sided murking then I’d be more on board, but one-sided murkings aren’t seen enough in All Elite rings.
What were some of the best unintentional comedy moments from the Elimination Chamber in Saudi Arabia?
- A fan throwing double birds at Roman Reigns during his entrance.
- Liv Morgan’s boot/kick pad getting caught on the top turnbuckle.
- Showing that hellish and scary Madcap Moss bump again in a slow-motion replay.
- The Usos and the Viking Raiders flying all the way to SAUDI ARABIA to not even have a wrestling match.
All in all, this wasn’t the worst Saudi Arabia show ever. It was certainly no Crown Jewel ‘18. I think the Elimination Chamber is a relic at this point, a staple of a bygone era. I haven’t been excited for a Chamber match since the 2000s. I guess when a gimmick match is seen as “valuable intellectual property,” you just keep milking it. I also commend Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn for not going.
What could Jay White’s actions mean for the future of Bullet Club?
A surprising development occurred during Impact’s No Surrender this weekend when the leader of Bullet Club hit one of its founding members, Tama Tonga, with a Bladerunner and cost the Guerrillas of Destiny the tag titles. Something I’ve recently learned from reading the trades is that this has not caused the G.O.D. to be booted from the Bullet Club, but rather it has caused a split within the U.S. Branch of the group.
During a recent episode of Dynamite, Adam Cole said that when you’re Bullet Club, you’re Bullet Club for life, not unlike the KGB. The ripple effect of the Bladerunner will in all likelihood reach All Elite shores where the Young Bucks and Cole have recently entered into some sort of accordance with White.
Chris Bey, Doc Gallows, and Karl Anderson are on the Switchblade side, leaving Hikuleo and the G.O.D on the other. One would assume Cole and the Bucks will be on White’s side, giving a big number advantage. Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish are also wild cards in this ongoing scenario. The current lack of clarity leaves a plethora of intrigue, this storyline could bring Bullet Club back to the forefront of conversations among wrestling fans.
Who is this weekend’s MVP?
With minimal worthy competition, this weekend’s MVP is Jay White. Not that I’ve devoted enough words to him already, but he had three solid singles matches on three different shows for three different promotions. I know that two were taped prior to this weekend, but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s the best wrestler under the age of 30 in the sport.
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