The Young Bucks have rejuvenated tag team wrestling.
The Bucks, who are self-made and constantly evolving, are the current Ring of Honor tag champs after defeating the Hardys in a ladder match main event at Supercard of Honor. One night later, the Hardys returned to WWE’s WrestleMania 33 to shock the wrestling world and win the WWE Raw tag team titles.
“We are better than any other team in the world,” said Matt Jackson. “We are bigger than tag team wrestling. We are The Young Bucks. We’re our own brand and our own genre. We’ve become larger than any active team, and we did it all on our own–without the help of a billion dollar wrestling company.”
Considering that the Bucks defeated the Hardys, who are the only reigning tag champs who were in a title match at WrestleMania, Nick Jackson was also asked if the Bucks are better than any other team in WWE.
“No one is bigger or better than the machine, but we are definitely the best tag team of the last decade,” said Nick Jackson. “I say that with confidence because our body of work does the talking.”
The Bucks defeated the Hardys with a sublime double superkick off two ladders, which was a sequence designed by all four men on the day of the show.
“We climbed the ladders in an empty building and the idea sparked,” said Matt Jackson. “We thought it was a perfect way to end the story.”
Nick Jackson added that was only one of a few spots actually tried beforehand.
“The four of us all climbed ladders and actually brainstormed ideas,” said Nick Jackson. “We all kind of came up with it while standing 10 feet high.”
The Hardys are now in WWE largely because of the way they were mistreated and disrespected by the Jeff Jarrett-run Impact Wrestling. Both of the Bucks were disappointed in the way Impact Wrestling attempted to take a lot of the momentum out of the feud by limiting the Hardys’ “Broken” characters.
“I was very upset,” admitted Nick Jackson. “This feud was supposed to go on until possibly June and they pretty much screwed up their whole deal with the Hardys, which is why we had to jumpstart the whole angle.”
“We were definitely disappointed they tried to do that,” added Matt Jackson. “We took it very personal because not only were they taking aim at our good friends, but it was also affecting our segments. It ended up being fine, because we worked around it, but it was definitely agitating.”
As for the reported dissension between Kenny Omega and Adam Cole, the Bucks stressed that all is well – despite the occasional flaring of competitive tension.
“Everything is just fine with the Bullet Club,” said Matt Jackson. “Kenny and Adam are two strong personalities. Two alpha males. I think it is friendly competition.”
“In my opinion, things are okay, but a little rocky,” added Nick Jackson. “Kenny and Adam both are our best friends and it’s kind of complicated when you have two guys that are alpha males who want both of our attention at the same time.”
The Bucks just reunited with “The Elite” partner Kenny Omega on their recent tour of the United Kingdom, and OTT’s ScrapperMania 3 at National Stadium in Dublin last Saturday featured a main event that saw The Elite defeat Will Ospreay, Lio Rush, and Ryan Smile.
“It’s been a few months since we’ve been with Kenny, so we missed him,” said Matt Jackson. “There’s a certain creative chemistry the three of us have that’s unlike anything we’ve experienced. There’s magic there.”
The Bucks also confirmed there will be brand new “Being The Elite” videos posted on Twitter.
“We filmed three different ‘Being The Elites’ during the trip and they might be the best of the series,” said Nick Jackson. “We did four shows from Wednesday to Saturday and every show was sold out. It was amazing to see all the fans come out and see us all, and this was one of my favorite tours ever.”
In other news…
The ring collapsing spot on Raw was spectacular, despite the fact that Braun Strowman and the Big Show had a nearly identical match, which was also a Raw main event, less than two months ago on Monday, February 20.
The rematch was rife with problems for two separate reasons. First of all, WWE never acknowledged this was a rematch. Why not share the back story that Show has been furious over the loss and was seeking redemption? Also, in the weekly live television era of professional wrestling, very rarely is there a strong build-up. Match-ups are often rushed for a rating–Charlotte versus Bayley immediately comes to mind–and, unfortunately, WWE creative missed an opportunity to unveil this match by rushing to it in February.
The spot was planned, with airbags underneath the ring, which was already lifted a few inches. If you notice, the LED on the ring mat had also been turned off and the ring posts were different. A very similar spot was used in 2003 with Big Show and Brock Lesnar, though the visual of referee John Cone being violently thrown from the ring greatly enhanced the visual on Monday. When WWE is at its best, it is suspending people’s belief, which was done, in exquisite fashion, in that spot on Monday.
• My condolences to the Anoa’i family, who lost Matt Anoa’i, better known in the wrestling ring as Rosey, at the age of only 47. Anoa’i is the older brother of Roman Reigns.
Shane Helms, who teamed with Anoa’i in the WWE as the Super Heroes, shared his heartbreak over the loss of his friend:
“He was a really great human being,” said Helms. “I can say that with all conviction. He had a big heart, he was a very loyal friend, and just a great guy. As a talent, he was a very underrated big man. His character was so over that his talent was sometimes overlooked. He could do lionsaults like Chris Jericho, he could go up to the top and do a moonsault if he wanted to, and he was so fast and agile. He was just really, really talented.”
Anoa’i’s final match took place in 2016 when he teamed one last time with Helms.
“That was our first match back together,” said Helms. “I know he wasn’t in great health, and I took it upon myself to make sure he looked good. I’m still glad we were able to perform together one more time.”
Helms was heartbroken over the loss of his friend, and was asked how he would remember him.
“Matty was Big Daddy Ro-Ro to me,” said Helms. “That’s who he was to me. When I think of him, my favorite memory of him is when he would do the ‘Elaine dance’ from Seinfeld. Imagine a 400-pound superhero doing that dance. That’s something he would do that always made me laugh, and he always had this great big smile on his face. I’m going to miss him a lot.”
• The Mauro Ranallo/JBL storyline took a brief respite this week. Ranallo confirmed on Twitter that he will eventually return to calling pro wrestling, which is likely to be with AXS TV calling New Japan Pro Wrestling. JBL has carefully steered clear of the story, and he received support from longtime friend–and newest addition to the Raw broadcast team–Booker T this past week.
Meanwhile, The Elite took a chance to poke fun at JBL, who was allegedly blocking those who came out in support of Ranallo:
• Due to the results of last Thursday’s 8-man tag on Impact Wrestling, Josh Mathews has been removed from the Impact Wrestling broadcast booth. Mathews team, consisting of Bobby Lashley, Bram, Eli Drake, and Tyrus was defeated by Jeremy Borash’s team of Chris Adonis, Matt Morgan, Alberto El Patron, and Magnus. The stipulation of the match was that, if Mathews’ team lost the match, he would leave the announce table.
When reached by Sports Illustrated, Mathews offered a statement regarding the loss:
“Without me, the state of wrestling commentary–no, Sports Commentary as a whole–is beyond repair,” said Mathews. “In one ‘Universe’, you have bullies and teams of 50 people calling shows, and now you also have ex-quarterbacks getting ‘A Team’ gigs without any resume to speak of.
“Quite honestly, I should be calling Olympic Games, Super Bowls, NCAA Championships, The Masters and The US Open. I realized how good I truly am by listening to my contemporaries and not one of them actually gets the job and what it is at its core.”
• The most compelling storyline from Monday night was the build of the Hardys’ tag team title defense against Cesaro and Sheamus. In the match of the night on Raw, Jeff Hardy defeated Cesaro in singles action. Even at the age of 39, Jeff Hardy is still a phenomenal talent, but the single most talented man in the business–and someone who allows his opponents to shine through making their moves look as realistic as possible–is Cesaro.
• Jinder Mahal won the right for a future world title shot on Smackdown. We too often complain that WWE does not build new stars, but my issue with Mahal is in the presentation. He was a non-factor in an enhancement loss last week on Raw to Finn Balor, yet a week later he is presented as a title contender. Time will tell on how Mahal is presented moving forward, but his anti-American promo after the victory on Smackdown had Vince McMahon’s fingerprints all over it.
• Interesting to note that all of the champions from last summer’s WWE Draft–which included then WWE champion Dean Ambrose, women’s champion Charlotte, tag team champions in The New Day, Intercontinental champion The Miz, and United States champion Rusev–all changed brands during the Superstar Shake-Up.
• Despite falling behind three games to none to the Anaheim Ducks in the opening round of the NHL playoffs, Bret Hart still has faith in the Calgary Flames:
“I’m a big fan of the Flames,” said Hart. “I’ve got a jersey with [Johnny] Gaudreau on the back. I like [Matthew] Tkachuk a lot, he’s kind of my favorite–Tkachuk and [Micheal] Verland. They’ve got some good players and Calgary is going to be a better team each year. I don’t think they’ll win the Cup this year, but I would like to see them get to the second or third round. They’ve got a good, young team, and they really play well together.”
• AXS TV will air the New Japan Destruction in Kobe match from last September featuring Michael Elgin defending the IWGP Intercontinental championship against Tetsuya Naito this Friday night at 8pm ET. Elgin, who discusses the match in greater detail in the “New Japan” section of the column, was asked whether Tetsuya Naito’s character reminds him at all of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin:
“It’s hard to say that Naito reminds me of anyone,” said Elgin. “Austin wasn’t so care-free. He was against authority, but he was against authority for a reason. Naito is against authority, but for no other reason than just to be against it.”
• Steve Austin and Vince Russo each traded appearances on the other’s podcast, and each show was full of insight and perspective from two men with experience in front of and behind the camera. My ears perked up on Russo’s show, The Brand, when Austin–yes, that “Stone Cold” Steve Austin–explained that he needed to ask for permission to use the word “ass” on Raw.
• Coming attractions: John Cena may be off WWE television, but he will be joining the Week in Wrestling on SI.com next Wednesday.
Something to Wrestle with Conrad Thompson
“Everybody is familiar with Jim Cornette, and our listeners love Bruce’s Jim Cornette impression,” said Thompson. “People will have a lot of laughs this Friday at noon.”
There is also a bonus “Love to Know” edition of the podcast that hits the MLW airwaves today at noon
“We’re delivering almost three hours of Q&A, with rapid-fire questions from Twitter,” said Thompson. “There will be lots of little details and stories we’ve never heard before. We have way more good conversations over little things that I never expected we would get into, and we have a lot of collaboration from our listeners this week with some really good questions.”
Exclusive Lucha Underground clip
There will be a panel at the Chicago Comic Con this Sunday with Lucha Underground’s Rey Mysterio, Johnny Mundo, Taya, Melissa Santos, Vampiro, Eric Van Wagenen, Chris DeJoseph, and Dorian Roldan – and it will be hosted by yours truly. If you would like any questions asked, please do not hesitate to email me.
The Nitro Files: Booker T
The Nitro Files with Eric Bischoff will delve into a moment from WCW’s Monday Nitro era. Bischoff – who was the president of WCW during the company’s most successful years – also hosts his weekly “Bischoff on Wrestling” podcast with 120 Sports’ Nick Hausman, and has also created the IRW Network, which is currently highlighting over 1,500 hours of independent wrestling. Bischoff plans on proving every week in the Nitro Files that the truth is out there.
Booker T’s rise to wrestling prominence began in World Championship Wrestling. Surrounded by a sea of talented wrestlers, Booker first resonated with audiences as one-half of Harlem Heat and then went on to a memorable singles career.
“Booker has always had a lot of confidence,” said Bischoff. “Booker was also a soldier. He would go out and work, and his self-confidence pushed him over the edge. He has a spectacular work ethic and a great amount of self-confidence.”
Bischoff did not recruit Booker and Stevie Ray, as Harlem Heat was brought to WCW by Bill Watts.
"I was an announcer there, and I was immediately drawn to them,” said Bischoff. “I loved them as a team, but Booker always had, even backstage in the locker room, a presence. He had that infectious laugh, he was always the one who made everyone in the room smile, and he had this incredible energy. He could also be serious and intense, but you could feel that charisma that drew you to him. Stevie Ray was bigger and more intimidating, but Booker was fluid, could do all the great selling, and he had that magic ‘It’ factor of charisma.”
New Japan Pro Wrestling
New Japan Pro Wrestling returns to AXS TV this Friday featuring the Destruction in Kobe match between Michael Elgin and Tetsuya Naito.
The encounter took place this past September, and Elgin defended his IWGP Intercontinental champion against Naito.
The match was a 32-minute affair, delivered a strong beginning, middle, and a majestic finish that saw Naito reverse Elgin’s running power bomb into his “Destino” finisher.
“Naito knows who he is as a wrestler, and I know who I am as a wrestler, and that makes things so easy,” said Elgin. “People like to say that Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat had great matches and they never had to call anything. When it came down to the 100th match they’d worked together, they didn’t need to call anything – they’d already worked together 100 times, so they knew what to do. We’ve grown into such great chemistry and things just clicked for us.”
Elgin was surprised how well he and Naito worked together and were able to mesh together their contrasting styles.
“Our first match in Ring of Honor, which was before he found himself, wasn’t bad but it didn’t stand out,” said Elgin. “Then we wrestled in the G1, and it was awesome. When our return singles match was announced, I knew that we could definitely amp it up and really produce something special. I definitely thought that something big could happen and we could wrestle a match that people would remember.”
As for the end, which saw Naito defeat Elgin and take his Intercontinental championship, the finish went as planned.
“We had an idea of how we were going to do the finish,” said Elgin. “We knew we could add things to it or take something away, but we had it set in our minds how we were going to do the finish.”
Tweet of the Week
The Revival’s Dash Wilder suffered a jaw fracture at an NXT show last Friday, and he and tag team partner Scott Dawson will be off WWE programming until the summer.