SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Fenix fights off injury during schedule overflowing with bookings
Pentagon and Fenix were revealed last week as two of the newest additions to the All Elite Wrestling roster. Their addition is significant, as, presuming AEW inks a deal to air on cable television, fans will then have the opportunity to watch two of the most talented luchadores in the world on a weekly basis.
Fenix received his first taste of AEW at the “All In” pay-per-view in September, where he wrestled in the main event, teaming with Rey Mysterio and Bandido against Kota Ibushi and the Young Bucks.
“To be in the main event, with three other Mexicans, and one of them to be Rey Mysterio, that was an incredible experience,” said Fenix, who has worked extremely hard over the past two years to learn English. “Plus, I wrestled Kota Ibushi, one of the best wrestlers in the world.
“The match was incredible. It was a dream. That night was special to my career, and Pentagon and I are one of the best tag teams in the world. I am very happy to do more with All Elite Wrestling.”
Fenix’s next stop is Lucha VaVOOM. The Los Angeles-based variety show features the electricity of burlesque, comedy, and lucha libre. Although he suffered what appeared to be a serious neck injury this past weekend at the AAW show in Chicago, where he and Pentagon captured another set of tag team titles, Fenix has given his word that he will still wrestle at Lucha VaVOOM.
“I’ve wrestled before for a sandwich and oranges, I just love to be in the ring,” said Fenix. “This is my life. I’ll be there.”
Whether or not Fenix wrestling in spite of his injury is wise, it certainly comes as no surprise. The nonstop, unremitting pace of the masked luchador is incredible: Fenix is currently AAA’s Mega Champion, one half of the tag team champions with Pentagon in Impact and AAW, working the Major League Wrestling show in Chicago on March 2, and wrestling with Pentagon for the tag titles at AAA’s Rey de Reyes show on March 16.
Fenix and Pentagon will also team up in an appointment-viewing match during Impact’s “United We Stand” WrestleMania weekend show on April 4 in New Jersey.
With Fenix, All Elite Wrestling is also acquiring a talent who wrestled Kenny Omega in one of the most outstanding matches of 2018, which took place during Northeast Wrestling’s “Redemption” show in November.
“I want to thank everyone for their kind words about my match against Kenny Omega,” said Fenix. “I try to give the best of myself in the ring, and I think we did well.”
Fenix will be worth the price of admission at Lucha VaVOOM, which takes place in LA’s Mayan Theater on Wednesday and Thursday—and the wrestling portion of the show also includes Pentagon, Taya Valkyrie, and Joey Ryan.
“The show is very special,” said Fenix. “Lucha VaVOOM has great lucha libre, and it will be a spectacular night in the ring. Big names in the lucha libre world, like my brother Pentagon Jr., will be there. Lucha VaVOOM has always had the best of lucha libre.
“Lucha VaVOOM is great lucha and an incredible experience. This is the type of opportunity I need to show I can be better in pro wrestling. I want to be part of this show, and I want to show everybody that I can wrestle all the styles of the world. I will show everybody in that crowd why Fenix is one of best in the world, and they’ll see why Lucha VaVOOM is one of the best wrestling shows in America.”
Becky Lynch remains in WrestleMania plans
Despite her storyline suspension, Becky Lynch is WWE’s top star and scheduled to headline WrestleMania 35 against Ronda Rousey.
Charlotte Flair will also be part of the match, making it a triple threat. Her inclusion feels forced, but her presence will not hurt the match. Flair’s work and chemistry with both Lynch and Rousey will enhance the affair, especially once the bell rings. Nevertheless, the finish needs to be Lynch cleanly defeating Rousey.
The triple threat match will not hurt Lynch, as a singles match does not necessarily equate to a better WrestleMania moment. Daniel Bryan, for example, won the WWE title at WrestleMania 30 in a fantastic triple threat match against Randy Orton and Batista. Considering Flair is being presented as a villain, and the crowd has already voiced its disapproval for her inclusion in the match, WWE now has the potential to turn this into an even better story.
But there is still a massive issue in presentation, as the storyline is leaving a lot to be desired.
Lynch apologized to both Triple H and Stephanie McMahon on Raw, which she was forced to do after attacking both in prior weeks, in order to keep her WrestleMania title shot against Rousey.
Then Vince McMahon closed out Raw by suspending Lynch for 60 days and replacing her at WrestleMania 35 with Charlotte Flair. This all begs the question, why are Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, and Vince McMahon so prominently involved in this storyline?
The story that should be at play is that two phenomenally talented wrestlers—ones who have been competing since November over who is tougher—are about to become trailblazers by headlining WrestleMania 35.
Instead, the focus is centered around an apology and a suspension.
WrestleMania should be far more about celebrating the talent than critiquing storylines. There is still time to correct this and deliver a better build to the first-ever women’s main event, hopefully starting this Sunday at Elimination Chamber.
Gauntlet Match Shows Kofi Kingston Deserves Singles Run
Tuesday’s SmackDown Live featured an incredible gauntlet match for the right to enter last in the elimination chamber match at this Sunday’s pay per view. The match was won by Randy Orton, but the real takeaway was the incredible performance by Kofi Kingston.
Kingston presented himself as a star, lasting over 60 minutes. He pinned WWE Champion Daniel Bryan and Jeff Hardy, then overcame exhaustion to outsmart Samoa Joe. The crowd was fully behind Kingston, and the match was an organic moment—one that too often WWE tries to manufacture—as well as serves as the final piece of proof that Kingston has earned a main event run in the company.
The 37-year-old Kingston has put in over a decade of entertaining content on WWE programming, and he is no longer one of the young guys (he is the same age that Randy Savage was at WrestleMania VI). His time is now, and he does not require a forced New Day breakup angle to jumpstart his singles career.
WrestleMania 35 needs matches that will provide defining, lasting moments, and Kingston defeating Daniel Bryan for the WWE title could potentially be the match of the night.
Following Tuesday’s performance and the ensuing crowd reaction, something is awry in WWE creative if Kingston does not have a marquee singles match at WrestleMania.
“Miz and Mrs” returns this spring
New episodes of “Miz and Mrs” will air on the USA Network beginning this April, and The Miz shared with Sports Illustrated that he is grateful to be working on air with his favorite tag team partner.
“My wife makes me a better person, she makes me want to fight to be better,” said Mike “The Miz” Mizanin. “The best person you can have as a counterpart is a person that makes you want to be a better you, and that’s exactly what Maryse does.”
Maryse is currently away from WWE programming, but some of The Miz’s best work has occurred with her in his corner—and in his storylines.
“My husband says I make him a better person, but at the same time, I say the same,” said Maryse. “I don’t know anyone that works harder than my husband. His work ethic is through the roof. He cares, he’s passionate, and it is fun to travel the world and work with him. I learn so much more working with him, and to me, honestly, he’s the greatest at what he does.”
If it appears as though The Miz and Maryse are enjoying themselves together whenever they appear on-screen together, do not adjust your iPhone. Their on-screen chemistry is a result of their real-life affection.
“She’s just an incredible, independent, hard-working, dedicated person,” said Mizanin. “Whether it’s work, personal, or raising a child, there is no one I’d rather spend my day with than my wife.”
The Revival gets a hard-earned opportunity
Can The Revival revive tag team wrestling in the WWE?
Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder finally reached the mountaintop of tag team wrestling on Monday, winning the Raw tag team titles in a fantastic back-and-forth match over Bobby Roode and Chad Gable.
The series of near-falls between the two teams was spectacularly done. Although Roode and Gable were thrown together with very little storyline—feeling slightly reminiscent of Jim Powers and Paul Roma thrown together to form the Young Stallions—the four men share tremendous chemistry in the ring.
Another key component to the success of the match is that it was given proper airtime. The match would not have mattered had it only lasted six minutes. Instead, the two teams wrestled a match that clocked in at over 19 minutes. The Revival work a style that needs time to be successful, and this match got better and better as it built to the finish. The encounter was also a lesson in looking good in a loss, as Roode and Gable came off better in the defeat than they had during their entire reign as tag champs.
The next question, as always, is where do we go from here? Ideally, The Revival receives 16-20 minutes of television time a week to give meaning to a title reign that will, hopefully, last for most of 2019.
All Elite Wrestling Takes Shape
WWE’s Elimination Chamber pay per view takes place this Sunday, but one of the biggest stories in the business is the debut of All Elite Wrestling.
AEW delivered another memorable event last week, introducing Kenny Omega to its roster and giving a headline match to “Double or Nothing” in May. Omega will build off his All In storyline and wrestle Chris Jericho in a match that could serve as the main event for any promotion in the world.
While WWE is certainly aware of AEW, its biggest competitor at the moment is New Japan Pro Wrestling. AEW’s top stars—Kenny Omega, Chris Jericho, the Young Bucks, and Cody Rhodes–were all part of the NJPW roster, as were AEW’s newest additions Trent Beretta and Chuck Taylor. WWE’s response to losing their first top star to AEW, which is inevitable, will be worth watching.
Timothy Thatcher Will Showcase European Wrestling Scene
Timothy Thatcher is set to meet Ilja Dragunov this Saturday for wXw in Bielefeld, Germany.
While WWE is on the “Road to WrestleMania”, wXw is paving its path on the road to 16 Carat, which is the single elimination 16 Carat Gold Tournament that will be held this March in Germany, and the Thatcher-Dragunov match will offer a physical, old-school presentation of pro wrestling that blends together with some extraordinary athleticism.
“Expect the showing of the strongest of styles,” promised Thatcher. “Minimalist wrestling but at full intensity, just the way it should be.”
The show is available to watch on the Highspots Wrestling Network, offering viewers a glimpse at the European wrestling scene. Bielefeld is a semi-regular place wXw runs for their “Shotgun” tapings and now for their “Road to…” shows. The venue is small, but the people who fill it are always into the matches.
Thatcher is one of the most skilled mat-based wrestlers in the world, delivering a style of mat-based offense that is true to his core. Colorful trunks and catchphrases are not his specialties, but rather a fighting spirit that embodies pro wrestling in its truest form. Fans watching Thatcher’s work can expect to feel every kick, punch, and suplex, as well as his desire for victory, which will be on full display against Ilja Dragunov.
“Ilja has amazing toughness, intensity and skill,” said Thatcher. “He is also a bit of a madman, really good at a lot of different facets of pro wrestling. He has won every wXw title and the 16 Carat tournament. His style will resonate well in the US because he brings a fight every time–he’s not afraid to get hit to deliver a shot of his own.”
Thatcher’s next U.S. date is an appearance at the loaded Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport show during WrestleMania weekend on April 4. Until then, he has his sights set on winning the prestigious 16 Carat Gold Tournament.
“16 Carat week is coming up, March 7–10, and that is a tournament I have never won,” said Thatcher. “I also have a singles match against one of my mentors, Yuki Ishikawa, on March 9 the Ambition show, and that match means a lot to me.”
“Something to Wrestle With” Preview
Conrad Thompson returns this Friday to “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” to cover No Way Out 2004, headlined by Eddie Guerrero winning the WWE Championship from Brock Lesnar.
“This will really be an Eddie Guerrero show,” said Thompson. “They told this story in three ways leading up to the pay per view, and I thought they did a tremendous job.”
Guerrero vs. Lesnar does not receive enough credit for its status as a classic, lasting over 30 minutes in a match that is one of the best in both of their careers.
“It’s a passing of the WWE torch, and it’s an emotional night for Eddie Guerrero,” said Thompson. “We’ll cover what it meant to Eddie and what it meant to Vince, but we’ll also discuss how Brock was none-too-pleased about dropping the belt. He wanted to go into WrestleMania XX with the belt, which would have led to a bigger pay day. Not too long after this pay per view, Brock is out of the company.”
Thompson, who is running the Starrcast II fan convention in May during All Elite Wrestling’s “Double or Nothing” weekend, hosted AEW’s fan rally last week in Las Vegas that saw the debut of Kenny Omega.
“I’m a pretty jaded wrestling fan because I do so much with my podcast, but I still got goosebumps when Chris Jericho came out, when Kenny Omega came out, and when Pentagon delivered the package piledriver to Matt Jackson,” said Thompson. “We now have a really good idea for what’s in store this May at ‘Double or Nothing.’”
Tweet of the Week
Todd Sinclair, ROH’s head referee, perfectly summed up why we love pro wrestling: the wrestlers make us believe. RIP, Pedro.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.