The big story from the past week without question is the Dark Side of the Ring documentary which focused on the infamous "Plane Ride from Hell". The story has been told over and over again amongst fans online and in shoot interviews, but this was the first time the story was told on National TV for consumption by the masses. I have so many strong opinions on the portrayal, but if you have not seen it, see the full episode below first.
The biggest story coming out of this was the revelation that the flight attendant Heidi Doyle accused Ric Flair, as well as Scott Hall, of sexually harassing her on the flight. Flair was accused by Doyle of exposing himself to her, pushing her up against the back door of the plane and putting her hand on his genitals. This was a bombshell accusation and something I never heard or read of before. The allegation was disputed on the show by Tommy Dreamer, who said that Flair was doing what he was infamous doing, he got naked and walked down the isle in his ring entrance robe swinging his genital for all the boys to see. Of course, to someone who is not familiar with the history of Flair when he's been drinking and "having fun" with his fellow wrestlers, this would be a major shock. However, the new element is the accusation that Flair forced himself upon Doyle, which was shocking.
Before the documentary even aired, Flair surely got word that the accusation would be a major headline from the piece, and he denied the claims last week on Renee Paquette's podcast. He he threatened that he would be dropping other people's names if the heat fell on him, claiming that he knew the "whole story". Well, after the show aired, anger towards Flair spread like wildfire online. The Carshield commercials featuring Flair were announced as being "on pause", as the company investigates the matter. This was a major move done immediately after the episode aired, as the ad company clearly wanted to distance themselves from Flair.
On Monday, Flair denied forcing himself on anyone in a statement he posted on his social media. He basically said he opened his entire life up for review and scrutiny when ESPN did their 30 for 30 on him a few years ago, and anyone can attest that there was nothing to the accusation. In a second statement on Tuesday, Flair condemned sexual assault but admitted that him doing what was referred to as a "helicopter" with his genitals is true. He blamed it on drinking too much and being inappropriate and apologized, as he's done it countless times over the years. He said he's made some terrible decisions, but never forced himself on anyone in any way.
Flair currently is not under contract to any wrestling company, and before this story broke all signs pointed towards him signing with AEW. That does not look probable at this point.
In the midst of hearing Heidi Doyle's story of how she was treated on the plane, it was quite startling to hear Tommy Dreamer making excuses for Flair's behavior on the doc. Dreamer, who was on the flight, defended Flair, and disregarded the notion that Flair would do such a thing. He said, Flair is "not going to impose, by force, any sexual stuff onto anybody. He's just flaunting...stylin' and profilin'...like the Ric Flair stuff where everybody's going to laugh about it. Obviously, somebody took offense to it." He later said Flair was being portrayed as a sexual predator. "It's a joke. It's a gag. Today? 1000% inappropriate," he said. "I have hung out with Ric Flair and have never seen him force his will against anybody."
The anger towards Dreamer's comments on the piece were rapid and in the masses. What really sent people over the top was when Dreamer commented on the settlement WWE made with Heidi Doyle over the encounter. Dreamer said, "If that’s how she felt, maybe she should have not taken a payout and went to the fullest extent of the law to put this heinous person in jail. My opinion." Supremely inappropriate and Dreamer has sense been suspended by Impact Wrestling, where he served as a part of the creative team and talent.
Dreamer took to social media to apologize for his remarks saying it was never his intention to offend, hurt, or victim shame anyone, and he deeply apologized. Only time will tell if he will still have a job.
WWE RAW/ SMACKDOWN
Reign of Terror
I may be in the minority, I don't really care, but I absolutely love how Roman Reigns has been booked over the last year. Some people keep saying that WWE has not "made a guy" since John Cena, but those people are death, blind, dumb, and stupid if they can't see how well booked and protected Roman Reigns has been since returning at Summerslam 2020. And I have enjoyed every minute of it. The only way to make a top guy, a superstar, is to present him as a top guy and make him the most protected and prestigious. You don't beat Roman Reigns just because he hasn't lost in awhile. You wait until the time is right, and the opponent winning will actually mean something for business, and growth. Right now, Reigns is THE guy.
This past Monday night, Reigns and the The Bloodline, The Usos, came to RAW and defeated the New Day in a 6 man tag team match. This was a fantasy booking of mine months ago, that I would have saved for Survivor Series, but this was a great preview for a possible showdown between Reigns and Big E at Survivor Series, champion vs. champion. This is important, because I would have Big E pin Roman Reigns! That way, Big E gets a huge win, solidifying his title run, but Roman gets to keep his title. I really think Roman and Big E as champions represents a great balance, heel and baby face, and they can work with multiple challengers.
The Sunday at Extreme Rules Roman Reigns will defend the Universal title against Finn Balor once again, but this time Balor will be "The Demon" alter ego character. The Demon character confronted Reigns at the end of the Madison Square Garden Smackdown, and the crowd popped huge. "The Demon" has not been seen since 2019, and Balor has never lost a match in that character. Yet and still I don't think anybody is expecting Roman to lose this one, as there are so many other big matches lined up on the horizon. And he shouldn't! Just because Balor is a great talent, it doesn't mean he needs to be beating Roman Reigns for the title. Fans are too impatient sometimes and want everyone to get a turn. I'm sorry, the money is in a Reign's championship run, and there are far too many big matches on the horizon to spoil Reign's title run with a Balor win here.
The next big match they have been simultaneously building for Reigns is against Brock Lesnar at Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia. This is the definition of a WWE money match, and while we have seen these two face each other in the past, even in Saudi, this time is different because Reign is the heel and Brock is the baby face. Lesnar made a surprise return at the end of Summerslam, and facing off with Reigns, and sparking an angle where Paul Heyman's allegiance has been called into question. The two got physical on the MSG Smackdown show a few weeks ago, and the feud has been red hot. Brock's presence has led to business and ratings picking up, and I am intrigued by the storyline. However, again, I think they can stretch out Roman's run as champion even longer and delay a Brock title win. Baby faces chasing the heel champion is classic great booking, if you have the right heel on top. And there is no question in my mind that Roman Reigns is the best heel in WWE.
Please Take the Cuffs Off!
We got just a taste of the beast Shayna Baszler should have been presented as from day one on the main roster. I absolutely loved Shayna choking out Nia Jax and destroying her arm on Monday. Nia's overselling was a annoying, but it didn't make Shayna less of a beast. All of the dumb shit she had to go through with Alexa Bliss and the stupid doll is hopefully behind us, and hopefully we'll get Shayna drafted to a show where she can show us she should be wrestling for the singles title, and presented as the special force that she is.
Universal Title - Roman Reigns vs. The Demon
Smackdown Women's Title - Becky Lynch vs. Bianca Belair
SmackDown Tag Team Title - The Usos vs. The Street Profits
Raw Women's Title - Charlotte vs. Alexa Bliss
U.S Title - Damien Priest vs. Sheamus vs. Jeff Hardy
Liv Morgan vs. Carmella
I decided to withhold my feelings about NXT 2.0 until after I gave it a few weeks, and I must say, after two weeks of the revamped version of the show, it sucks. And I'm not saying everything sucks but overall, the execution of this idea has been done terribly and I simply can't wait for HHH to return and get this shit back on track, because there were a lot of issues on Tuesday nights show.
Before I get into what I dislike about the product, I must say I was plesantly surprised with the decision to crown Tommaso Ciampa the NXT champion once again. Goldie being back with Ciampa has been highly anticipated since he was forced to vacate it two years ago, and I truly feel he is the perfect type of veteran who can work with the young talent and help groom them for success. There are multiple title that can booked with Ciampa on top that would be both great in the ring and intriguing storyline wise. So that was a great decision and surpsing, given that the word going around was that the new NXT would focus on young, big guys. Well....
Through two weeks its blatantly obvious that Vince is looking to shoot Rick Steiner's son, Bron Breakker, to the moon and he will be the champion in the very near future. I get the appeal, but I think its so dumb to rush a guy to the top spot just because of his look and name, when you don't even identify him as the son of Rick Steiner. He dresses like a Steiner, acts like a Steiner, suplex's like a Steiner, but you name him Bron Breakker?? Stupid. But why would we ever be shocked. Another example of Vince wanting to own everything.
Another thing I really hate about NXT 2.0 is that everything comes off cheesy, goofy, cartoony, and amateur. I get it, its developmental. But NXT used to come off as cool and it had a vibe to it. That opening segment on Tuesday where Ciampa was in the ring with all these goofs behind him in the ring was so cheesy and contrived. I HATED IT!! What the hell was that? It as like a fake pep rally with a bunch of dorks, who's names I didn't know, and they all came off as goofs. This was terrible. And the brawl that ensued afterwards felt even more contrived, and a scene right off of main roster TV where everyone comes out one at a time, taking turns talking. This was a scene right out of Kevin Dunne's playbook and I hated every second of it.
After being extremely turned off by the opening segment, I stuck around to watch Roderick Strong capture the NXT Cruiserweight title in a good match with Kushida. I was happy for Roddy, although I thought these guys could have had a great match with more time. But no, they had to save time for the other hundred things on this show. And after this match is where the show nosedived for me until the main event. So much was crammed in to the episode that I honestly could not remember everything that happened on the show. I know some people like that style where a lot happens on a show, but this was overkill to me. Nothing from the new comers was able to sink in or resonate on the undercard. Plus the wrestling for the most part from all these squashes was bad. It was a waste of time and could've been a vignette or interview. And the interviews largely sucked. I could not take it. In 2021, watching ten squash matches in a row with wrestlers who are being introduced at a rapid pace, is not my idea of a good Tuesday night. But the main event was good and Bron Breakker has something.
ALL ELITE WRESTLING
Grand Slam is Loaded!
Tonight AEW hosts the largest show in companies young history, as about 20 thousand fans will be in attendance at Arthur Ashe stadium in Queens New York for the Grand Slam Super show. The card is loaded, with every big name in the company on the lineup, with the matches being presented over two nights, as Dynamite will air live and Rampage will be taped for a special two hour airing on Friday night. This is one of the most highly anticipated TV shows that you will ever see, as a card like this would traditionally be reserved for PPV. But instead AEW is headlining Dynamite with one of the biggest matches they could book, AEW World Champion Kenny Omega vs. Bryan Danielson in a non-title match. Also CM Punk will wrestle for the first time on free TV.
Clearly AEW is going all out to capitalize on the buzz the company has gained by signing CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, and Adam Cole, and using TV to showcase a show like this is an attempt to present a mega show to masses, in a cool stadium, and attract new viewers to the product. Could they have made more money by putting a show like this on PPV? Of course, but reaching more people for free who may sample the product, like what they see, and keep coming back, is far more important. Plus, if the company is able to win the 18-49 demo war with Monday night RAW once again, which is very likely (RAW drew a .49), this will go a long way in further cement AEW as a true threat to WWE's stranglehold on the market. Exciting times.
Grand Slam Night 1 Lineup - Dynamite
Grand Slam Night 2 Lineup - Rampage
The Owen Hart Foundation Partners with AEW
In an amazing story, The Owen Hart Foundation and All Elite Wrestling announced a partnership where for the name, image, and likeness of the late great Owen Hart will be featured by AEW. In a press release published on Monday, it details that the partnership will include production and distribution of unique and original Owen Hart merchandise like action figures, apparel posters, and other collectibles. In addition Owen will be featured in the upcoming AEW video game. AEW will also create an annual tournament called the Owen Hart Cup tournament, where the winner will be awarded a cup they are calling the "The Owen."
This is such a great story, as in many ways Owens style is almost like a archetype for everything AEW was built upon. Also, due to eh nature of Owen's death, his wife Martha Hart has refused to let Owen's likeness be used by WWE, so we have been deprived of seeing Owen in video games or getting new Owen merchandise. This is a great partnership, and it's great news that Martha Hart allowed this to happen so fans can honor Owen's legacy.