So we’re getting another “Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic”. For a tournament wearing the name of one of the most charismatic and incredible wrestling talents the sport has ever had, it has yet to live up to that name. Hopefully, this year will be different.
Authors of Pain (Akam & Rezar) w/ Paul Ellering vs. TM61 (Shane Thorne & Nick Miller)
AOP has been in dry dock for a while now and I’m not sure there’s a thing left for them to accomplish in WWE. They won this very tournament back in 2016 and then also won the NXT titles already. What else is left for them to do? It’s long since time for them go to the main roster. TM61 is another matter. They were sort of getting somewhere and then Shane Thorne’s injury put them both on the shelf for a long while. They’re back now (Shane is still wearing a knee brace) so we’ll see what they can make of this reboot.
Both looked really good in this match. They also both took some rather nasty spots from each other. Shane’s power bomb bump by Rezar to the apron and then onto the floor was particularly vicious. AOP advanced but WWE was booked into a corner. AOP couldn’t go out in the first round but TM61 needed to advance. Of course, both couldn’t happen.
Cinéma de Loading Dock – William Regal, Pete Dunne, Roderick Strong, and The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, & Kyle O’Reilly)
This was a press thing with bunches of cell phones and one NXT mic to capture Regal’s responses. It amounted to nothing. Pete Dunne came down the ramp and said nothing of interest either. Roderick got in Pete’s face and, as usual, said nothing of interest (sorry but the man is completely boring). The Undisputed Era showed up and it became more fun. Adam Cole has more charisma in his nose hairs than Dunne or Strong have in their entire bodies. He made a little more fun of that than it was before he got there. He’s a great bully.
Cinéma de Creepy Backstage Area – SanitY (Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe, Killian Dane, & Nikki Cross)
They are all SOOOO good at doing the scary thing. This was short but I really liked it.
Bianca Belair vs. Drew Renée
This was a total jobber match. She got in zero offense. I’m noticing that she no longer does the hair whip on her opponents anymore. Perhaps she was told to stop? This was a quick match that was pretty uneventful. It did get Drew on WWE TV but…
Backstage segment – Lacey Evans & Shayna Bazler
Lacey is clearly still learning. She got through the dialog but it all sounded completely scripted and her face was nearly completely dead. Yes, I know everything is scripted but it shouldn’t sound like it. This totally did. As a result, I didn’t believe a word she said.
Shayna came out and was far more believable. Her face is livening up and she sounds more committed each time she talks. Since they occurred together, I have to weight them together when it comes to grading it. If it had been Lacey on her own, this would have been uglier for sure.
Cinéma de Weight Room – Heavy Machinery
Tucker and Otis are so much fun. They are just wild and I love every second of it.
In-ring segment – Tommaso Ciampa
He’s really becoming one heck of a heel. I love the way he just creeped down to ringside and stalked the ring with his emotionless expression. I also loved that he stood in the ring and soaked up the hate. His timing is just impeccable and this was proof of it. He stood in that ring and said nothing but his face and actions said all that needed to be said. Every time he raised the mic to speak, the crowd booed him. He OWNED them and it was really cool. Roman Reigns did the same thing some time ago after he beat the Undertaker but Tommaso is so much better at it. When the “we want Johnny” chants started, he got mad and stomped out of the ring, only to pick it back up and go back in. He really nailed this whole segment. He did so many little things and all of them worked. So much nuance!
Aleister Black vs. Killian Dane
The contrasting styles at work here was going to make this interesting and it was. Aleister can have a great match with anyone so I knew this would be really good too. Killian was game too. Our Beast of Belfast was definitely beastly here. He brought pain to Aleister and it looked great. He did much work on his back bruiser-style. Aleister got his “Black Mass Kick” in out of nowhere and ended this one. Aleister jumping to a Killian lariat is something you don’t see every day.
A lot of nice storytelling here and couple of decent matches too. Not bad for an hours. I’ll take it! See you next week for another trip to the “Illustrious Future”.