Welcome, friends and fellow fans, to another round of Geek Versus Pro Wrestling. I leveled up my wrestling-geek abilities this week by figuring out how to properly pronounce “Los Ingobernables”. I can now confidently discuss the brilliant heel work of Tetsuya Naito without worrying about whether or not I’m rolling the “r” correctly. Let’s celebrate this debatably valuable skill acquisition by hitting some high spots.
Before getting into the good, bad, and confusing aspects of the WWE draft, which shuffled the entire roster into two distinct brands, I think it’s important to talk about perspective and managing expectations.
As clever and insightful as I try to be as a writer, it should be stressed that I neither consider myself an expert, nor am I privy to any sort of insider knowledge. Most of my point-of-view is informed by being a long time fan that enjoys doing a little extra research and reverse-engineering. I’m the kind of person that watches the replay of last night’s Super-J Cup on my tablet, while listening to a UK based wrestling podcast on my phone, while also writing about the WWE on a desktop (all of which is literally happening at the moment). I’d probably fall under the “smark” category, an amalgamation of the words “smart” and “mark”, but I have a hard time accepting the label because the word “mark” is essentially carny-speak for “sucker”.
I bring all of this up not to make this article about me, but to illustrate how a lot of wrestling fans are susceptible to overthinking what we’re given from the WWE. Those of us with a bit more than casual interest in wrestling often forget that our devotion doesn’t always manifest in a world designed to entertain us between Mountain Dew ads. We gravitate towards the flavors of wrestling we prefer; and the further down the rabbit hole we go, the more vulnerable to disappointment we become when sweeping changes like the WWE brand extension go down. The largest wrestling company in the world’s audience is much broader than those of us that maybe go to bed wondering why Gurukun Mask got bounced in the first round of a multi-promotional Japanese junior-heavyweight tournament by someone from Suzuki Gun…or whatever…
The point being that there’s a big difference between getting upset because something is “bad” and being disappointed because our big brilliant ideas about how the pro wrestling world should best be arranged hasn’t come to fruition. This draft left me guilty of the latter. I had to keep this distinction in mind when it didn’t shake down into Raw being the backstage drama show and Smackdown Live becoming the strong-style indie wrestling trans-promotional major league strictly in-ring action utopia a lot of us were hoping to get.
The WWE Draft left me with a lot of questions, which is sort of the point, but also served as a reminder that WWE creative doesn’t always put as much thought into their programming beyond the top rung of talent. The first round picks were great, but the rest of the draft felt like they literally wrote all of their superstars’ names on playing cards, shuffled the deck, and dealt the cards between the two shows.
I was excited to see Finn Balor go up so early, especially to the show (Raw) that will be the home of the cruiserweight division; of which he’ll likely become the face. With AJ Styles going to Smackdown and the other members of The Club (Gallows and Anderson) going to Raw, it makes for a perfect opportunity to reunite the original Bullet Club by linking them up with Balor. Hopefully it means they’ll be taking the opportunity to expand The Club over the two brands, but that may make too much sense.
It was a big night for NXT, especially for the women’s division. Not only was Charlotte (an NXT product regardless of the Flair pedigree) taken 3rd overall, but 3 of the 6 available picks from NXT were used to bring up Alexa Bliss, Carmella, and Nia Jax. Bliss has improved dramatically in the last year, and I think she’ll thrive on Smackdown Live. I don’t exactly understand why they sent Carmella to Smackdown opposite her boys Enzo and Cass who went to Raw, but hopefully it means they have big plans for her.
As happy as I am about these women getting the call up, the glaring omission of Bayley was suspicious. If for some reason she’s not Sasha Bank’s mystery partner at Battleground this weekend, it raises a lot of questions about why a potential Hulk Hogan caliber star isn’t getting the big time attention. Of course, expectations as a fan should be managed, but this seems like a much more obvious move than just a check on the smark wishlist.
King of the Week : Dean Ambrose – WWE Champion
In spite of complaints about unmet expectations and how much logic gets thrown out the window when wrestling stories are constructed by the big brand, it feels good to crown Dean Ambrose my King of the Week for a second time based on, you know, like, wrestling reasons.
The suspension of Roman Reigns, booked in a triple threat with Ambrose and Seth Rollins for the WWE title at Battleground this weekend, left a serviceable opening for a potentially classic rivalry between Ambrose and Rollins to add another chapter. Over the past 30 days, Ambrose has carried the WWE title marvelously, and there’s no better opponent for him than Rollins. The chemistry between these evokes the juxtaposition of Bender and jockey Andy in The Breakfast Club (which hopefully isn’t too old of a reference).
In the WWE draft, Rollins and Ambrose were selected 1st and 2nd, respectively, essentially splitting them up between Raw and Smackdown. This means that this chapter of their Reigns-free rivalry came to it’s conclusion on the draft edition of Smackdown Live. The one-on-one affair was a rematch of the WWE title match on RAW the previous night between the two which ended in a draw.
Rather than letting the title feud roll over into Battleground, Ambrose closed out this round of the feud with a clean victory over Rollins. No shenanigans or ambiguous finishes. It was a wrestling match that ended when one guy hit his finishing move on the other. It was an indisputable victory that legitimized Ambrose’s championship reign.
With the skuttlebutt suggesting that he’ll end up dropping the title in the triple threat at Battleground to give Reigns and Rollins something to fight over at SummerSlam, it was good to see Ambrose’s first stint as champion not end in a fashion that made him look like a placeholder. For now, he’s still the champion, and he deserves it.
Geek Versus Pro Wrestling is an esoteric weekly editorial column reviewing the vast world of professional wrestling. That’s right. The word “esoteric” was just used to describe a series of internet articles about wrestling. Hang that from your turnbuckle and chop it.
J. Aaron Poole is a 21st century writer, musician, and geeky thing liker. He is a member of the American Sociological Association with an academic interest in the relationship between media, technology, and modern culture. Currently residing in Fort Walton Beach, Florida by way of Atlanta, Georgia, he’s recently begun archiving his work at Station146.com. Aaron can be found making absurd comments on Twitter, PSN, and other social media platforms as @JAaronPoole.