The world of professional wrestling is so vast and fast-moving that it’s damn near impossible to keep up. Luckily, your pals at Deadshirt are here to keep an eye on squared circles everywhere, from modest bingo halls to packed football stadiums, and bring you the most notable matches and storylines from throughout the past week. And it’s a good thing, too, because there’s just TOO MUCH WRESTLING!
Titanfall 3: Braunder Siege
— WWE (@WWE) April 18, 2017
Monday Night Raw (WWE)
April 17th, 2017, Columbus, Ohio
“You flipped over a fricken’ ambulance with Roman Reigns inside!” General Manager Kurt Angle perfectly encapsulated why the crowd is in love with Braun Strowman with that line. A week removed from the ridiculous, hilarious, and downright perfect backstage beatdown that flooded every wrestling fan’s Twitter feed, I had an uneasy feeling that Roman would return, no worse for wear, and beat up Braun in the main event without missing a beat. Thankfully that wasn’t the case and instead we got was an amazing hoss match and a perfect career capstone.
Enter Big Show, who was very public in his decision to retire after his WrestleMania 33 match with Shaq of all people, that he visibly put in a TON of time in the gym for. When that fell through, I was pretty bummed that this future Hall of Famer’s career would end with a very early elimination from the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Luckily, this wasn’t the case, and he stuck around long enough for a final showdown with WWE’s new big man, Braun Strowman. On April 17th, 2017 I got the closure I craved.
Following the trashing of The Golden Truth (figurative) and Kalisto (literal), Braun was knocked to the floor by Big Show, who suggested that he should “pick on someone [his] own size” which drew a massive pop from the crowd, something heartening to see after several solid years of “please retire” chants at Show’s expense. With that proclamation, we had our main event and what a main event this turned out to be.
The crowd was hot for this match-up, clearly recalling the great match these two surprised us with months ago. Braun and Show really played off of this fervor and before the bell even rang, the two were already at each other’s throats. An aging giant trying desperately to prove that he was still a force to be reckoned with trading blows with a young unstoppable force, this was a great finale for Show’s long and storied career.
What made this match feel so special was the athleticism on display between the big men. It’s not very often you see someone the size of Braun doling out arm drags and doing kip ups. He gets more impressive by the week, and I’m still in awe of the speed with which someone as huge as that can move. Show was on a roll too, clearly giving it his all for what may well have been his final match. With every suplex and powerslam, the crowd knew what was coming (the removal of the apron LED boards was a big hint) as the ring shuddered under the weight of the two titans.
As the match reached its climax, Big Show delivered a chokeslam, but Braun kicked out at two. Shortly after, Braun jumped off the ropes into a knockout punch, but still managed to kick out. Show was floored at Braun’s resilience and decided to pull out all the stops by attempting to superplex his seemingly indestructible opponent, causing the crowd to go wild knowing what this would mean. Show gave it his all, but Braun countered out and decided to deliver a superplex of his own, causing the two behemoths to crash down hard onto the mat, and in the moment the crowd was on the edge of their seats waiting for, the ring collapsed.
I love when this happens, because it’s a rare spot reserved for big main events between giants and WWE has surprisingly always used it to great effect. What made this collapse extra special was the poor ref, John Cone, flying over the ropes—looking like he was devoured by the ring itself—and the ring stairs popping up into the air before the momentary chaos came to a sudden halt. Eventually Braun made it to his feet, winning by count out and from the looks of it, sending Show out on his back. After a WrestleMania main event where Roman Reigns retiring The Undertaker showed us every mistake that could be made in booking a retirement match, this was the perfect example of all the pieces falling into place. All hail Braun Strowman, the man who has surpassed even Big Show and has hereby been awarded the title of Biggest Show.
Extra High Spots: Alexa Bliss made a big impact in her Raw debut match and I couldn’t be happier!
– Kyle Herr
Damn, Xenophobia, Back At It Again
SmackDown Live (WWE)
April 18th, 2017, Louisville, Kentucky
Last week’s SmackDown Live saw great efforts being put into rehabilitating the United States Championship, which languished for months on Monday Night Raw, as three of the brand’s top stars competed in a main event match for the right to challenge for the title. This week, the puzzling placement of the WWE Championship picture in SmackDown‘s midcard continued with a Number One Contender match between six guys who you can’t imagine possibly winning the belt any time soon: Sami Zayn, Luke Harper, Eric Rowan, Mojo Rawley, Dolph Ziggler, and Jinder Mahal. It legitimately felt like it would make more sense for all six men to somehow lose than for any of them to be main eventing Backlash next month. So, really, any outcome would have been a shock, but certainly no one was expecting for Harv & Gurv Sihra (The freaking Bollywood Boyz) to show up and help Jinder Mahal win the day. Here’s a guy whose last singles victory on live TV was in September 2016, over Jack Swagger. Certainly, not a predictable outcome.
Sadly, what was predictable was the promo that immediately followed the match. It began with a roar of boos from the Kentucky audience. Now, Mahal’s a heel who won dirty, so a boo is an appropriate response. But the jeers only intensified as Mahal dove headfirst into one of WWE’s most tired, uncomfortable habits—raw xenophobia. Jinder baits the WWE Universe into more rage by talking about how they don’t like that he speaks two languages, how he doesn’t look like they want their champion to look, about how Americans don’t respect diversity. The Kentucky crowd responds exactly as they’re intended to, and boooooy am I getting tired of this old chestnut. The “evil foreigner” gimmick in wrestling is older than Christ, and while its occasionally a cute look on Rusev or Kevin Owens, it’s really uncomfortable with Jinder and you don’t need me to explain why. It’s 2017 and the United States is more openly, dangerously racist than it’s been in over a decade, and WWE’s still training its audience to hate a guy because he’s (not even actually) from India.
Jinder Mahal’s a pretty good wrestler. He’s a real impressive-looking dude. (Did you know that he’s out-training and out-dieting the whole locker room? Ask him about it some time.) It’s kind of cool to see SmackDown Live doing what it’s best at, taking overlooked talent from Raw and building them into serious stars. But this week’s SmackDown was not just WWE’s weaker TV show this week, it was the first episode from the blue brand since the brand split that actually made me want to turn it off. I continue to watch WWE programming despite McMahon family’s despicable politics because I don’t typically have to think about it during the show. But if SmackDown‘s going to be a reminder of what a hateful ugly world it is—instead of an escape from it—for the next six weeks, I might start looking elsewhere for my pro wrestling.
In other news, I just started an NJPW subscription.
Extra High Spots: Charlotte is already bringing out the best in SmackDown‘s women’s division—anybody who had doubts as to whether or not Naomi can hang with the Queen has had their mouth shut now. Charlotte/Naomi was Match of the Night by a mile, and I’m excited for their title bout next week.
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