Time to put the finishing touches on round one of the 2016 Dusty Classic, and move a few pieces around for TakeOver: Toronto.
Once and future #1 contenders for the Revival’s tag titles, Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa, are up first, fighting HoHo Lun & Tian Bing for a date with Dash & Dawson in the second round of the tournament. Ciampa starts with Bing, and is unable to take the big man down with shoulder blocks. Tian does manage to flatten the Psycho Killer, and after a tag to his partner, the connect with tandem back elbows.
Gargano gets in, but Lun thwarts a double-team from #DIY. They trade kicks after a forearm from Johnny Wrestling. The team from China works over Gargano with knees and kicks, even getting a two-count after a middle rope drop kick from HoHo. Simultaneous tags turn the tide, as Ciampa chops Lun and turns him inside out with a spinning lariat. The Cruiserweight Classic (CWC) competitor manages to wiggle out of a powerbomb, but Johnny tags himself in and hits his slingshot spear. The knee strike/Superkick combo connects just past the four minute mark and allows #DIY to advance.
Backstage, Kota Ibushi & TJ Perkins explain to Dasha Fuentes how mutual respect took them from beating the crap out of each other in the CWC to partnering up when Kota’s original partner, Hideo Itami, had to bow out with a neck injury.
In another interview, Samoa Joe explains to Charly Caruso how he’s just leveling the playing field in his feud with NXT champ Shinsuke Nakamura. Nak broke Joe’s jaw, so he messed up his neck and shoulder. Swagsuke played mind games, so Joe’s engaging in psychological warfare. He tells her that he has the champ scared, and come Toronto, he’ll be holding the title again.
Women’s action, as Aliyah faces Billie Kay. Kay is escorted to the ring by her partner-in-crime Peyton Royce. Aliyah is unable to knock Billie off her feet despite hitting a range of offense, and Kay talks trash while slapping her. Running knees and a step-up enziguri still don’t bring the taller woman down, and the Australian is able to level Aliyah with a forearm. But Liv Morgan attacks Royce at ringside, and the distraction allows for a roll-up win for Aliyah in a little under two minutes.
Afterwards, the Aussies double-team Liv, but Aliyah returns to even the odds. The babyfaces comeback is short-lived however, and a big boot takes care of Aliyah while Morgan’s finds herself driven face-first into Kay’s knee.
- No surprises in our opener, except for how decent Bing looked. He was the big splash signee from their Chinese tryouts just this past June, and the 22 year old is already on our screens and hanging with Ciampa & Gargano. Of course, working with a couple steady hands like those guys will help and he didn’t do too much, but Antonio Inoki looks to have trained up the 6’ 3”, 220 pounder well.
- Lun was one of the least impressive guys in the CWC to my eyes, and he did better here... but still didn’t really stand out. He tried to add some flair with a gesture where he fixed his band and didn’t get much of a reaction. Keep trying kid.
- Excited to see how they play #DIY’s second round match-up and handle the title scene for Toronto (and I’ve read the taping reports and I’m still curious. If you’ve read them too and want to talk about them, be sure to use the spoiler tag).
- Was really excited about the Perkins interview cause I thought he was gonna get through it without a video game reference. Even though the banter with Ibushi about his “rating” was cute, I hate TJ’s gimmick almost as much as I hate dancing, so I’m gonna move along...
- Joey Headrocker does it again, at least for this fanboy. Had to go back and watch it again because I popped so hard I kind of lost consciousness after the “wage psychological warfare” line, which was delivered like it came from the kung fu flick RZA wishes he wrote. Joe’s mic skills aside, this was also a really smart speech, as it shows how much the Samoan Submission Machine believes his villainy is justified, as all great bad guys do.
- Not a whole lot to say about the first women’s match, which like almost everything on this week’s show was short. I continue to like what I see from Aliyah, even in a really small dose like this.
- The build of the mean girls from down under is still going very well. After delivering probably my favorite segment last week, they follow that up another piece of badassery, with Peyton in particular looking great (and I mean that in all the ways I could possibly mean that... street-wear looks even better on her than her ring gear).
After trading “Ten” taunts, Tye Dillinger makes quick work of Noah Potjes with 10 stomps in the corner and his finisher. Mike Rose asks him about his upcoming TakeOver match with Booby Roode in Toronto, but as soon as he starts to rail against his short-lived partner for running when he was assaulted by SAnitY, the Glorious One attacks from behind. Roode destroys him with punches and DDTs him on the stage, yelling “You want me? You got me!” before striking his signature pose.
Dasha asks TM-61 about their second round opponents. Nick Miller says Austin Aries & Roderick Strong were a good team “back then”, but he & Shane Thorne are good now. Thorne goofily suggest they’re a more cohesive team, and then both men show how on the same page they are by delivering their “The Mighty Don’t Kneel” catchphrase together.
The latest victim for Women’s champ Asuka is Thea Trinidad. The champ lights her up with leg kicks, taunts her and puts her down with a hip strike. Trinidad lands some strikes of her own, but Asuka is unphased and runs her mouth some more. When Thea does do some damage, the Empress of Tomorrow gets pissed. After forcing a break to survive an ankle lock, Asuka hits a vicious looking German suplex and rolls through to an arm bar to win via submission in a little more than a minute and a half.
General Manager William Regal appears in person to congratulate her, and reveal he found someone he thinks is ready for Asuka. A video plays on the big screen, and when the speaker turns we learn it’s former WWE Women’s champ Mickie James! She says she’s been in the ring with all-time greats who paved the way for the Women’s Revolution, and until Asuka beats her, she hasn’t beaten anyone.
- Dillinger’s match was another squash to further an angle - a well they’ve been going to a lot lately, but I’m just tickled Tye has a major feud going.
- Nasty beatdown from Roode, which again makes me think he’s gonna manage to get booed in Toronto. It’s definitely not a sure thing, but I’m cautiously optimistic both men are gonna come out of this positioned - with the correct alignment - for bigger things.
- Speaking of a positive outlook, thought this was really good interview for the former TMDK. Many folks have said they need to let Thorne’s inner goofball shine through, and it looks like the powers-that-be are listening. I doubt they’ll ever be my favorites, but there’s just enough charm here that if they can really show their full potential in the ring (as they should be able to with Aries & Strong), I’ll stop worrying about their WWE careers for a little while.
- Quick aside because I haven’t shouted him out in a while, but dang is Corey Graves good. He’s so consistently good on this show I can take him for granted, but Tom Phillips - who’s really just as essential to NXT - introducing him as “Raw’s Corey Graves” reminded me that I thought he was a goner back in August. My favorite bit tonight was the running one where he was pissed at Tom for calling Gargano & Ciampa by their team name, the really-kind-of-dumb #DIY, then later called out Phillips for being a hashtag activist. Whether he’s hating on faces or loving heels, he’s always talking up the performers and providing insight on pyschology. As he said himself this episode, he’s really good.
- Props to Trinidad, who worked in TNA as Rosita and - fun fact! - is A-Double’s real-life girlfriend, for looking competent while being destroyed by Asuka. Not everyone who’s been squashed by the champ’s been able to pull that off.
- Really thought that German might have killed her.
- Yay, Mickie! Have long been a fan of Ms. James. Thought this was a strong promo, and I’m anxious to see what they can do with what I’m guessing won’t be a whole lot of build. My favorite part of this was the champ’s excitement, and that you couldn’t tell how much came from getting to face a legend and how much from the prospect of being challenged a bit before inevitably breaking another opponent.
With his team heading into a second round match against Rich Swann & No Way Jose, Charly asks Paul Ellering how the Authors of Pain are progressing. He says he has a plan and a strategy, and his team will execute it. The Hall of Famer says Swann & Jose have bright futures, but their run in the Dusty ends next week. Akam & Rezar yell stuff in a foreign language.
In addition to that bout, we’re told next week SAnitY will face the winner of our main event between TJP & Ibushi and Mustafa Ali & Lince Dorado.
Perkins starts off that match against Lince Dorado. They lock up and fly around to a stand still, shake hands and tag in their partners. Test of strength ends when Ali flips out of the wristlock, but he immediately eats a drop kick from Kota.
After an early commercial, Perkins is back in against Mustafa. TJ tries for the kneebar, but Ali gets the rope break. Dorado is in, but the Cruiserweight champ avoids a double team move. He’s sent to the floor where Lince hits him with a dive. After rolling TJP back in, a crossbody earns a nearfall. The Raw Superstar is worked over for a bit, and neckbreaker earns another two count, but Perkins gets free with a bulldog, allowing Ibushi to come in hot and take both their opponents down.
Dorado escapes a powerbomb and slaps Kota, but he dodges a double team and Pele kicks Lince and Ali. The masked luchador lands a Superkick, but its answered with a powerslam. A tag to Perkins means a frog splash which could have ended it had Ali not made the save. Ibushi takes him out of the picture with a triangle moonsault to the floor, and a series of dropkicks create an opening for the champ to lock in the kneebar, but Dorado counters that by turning it into a pinning predicament. A rana leads to a cover on TJ, but his partner breaks that up. Mustafa tags in and takes care of Kota with a kick, but quickly finds him in a kneebar he can’t escape.
The CWC rivals dab to celebrate advancing after an eight minute match.
- It’s getting to where I don’t even want to hear Ellering talk. Just glower while your charges throw people into other people. If anything, Akam & Rezar taking a page from Asuka’s book is preferable to more cliched bluster about “executing my strategy”.
- My main question about the last match of the night was “why is this so much more fun than Raw’s cruiserweight tags?” Having Ibushi never hurts, but I don’t think he’s a magic ingredient that would the purple-roped matches on Monday nights.
- Best answers I could come up with were (1) there are stakes, and that ALWAYS helps, and (2) the crowd. A very different message is sent by a couple hundred people acting like what they’re watching is a big deal vs. thousands who don’t know why these guys are out here in between a Titus O’Neil match and the main event.
- Regardless of why, this was four talented guys all clicking together. It was a nice throwback to the CWC, where you didn’t need heels and faces or even a whole lot of backstory, because you could enjoy gifted athletes convincing you they were really trying to beat each other.
- But enough with the dabbing. #GetOffMyLawn
After an episode where most of the things they tried misfired (at least for this viewer - all I’m ever trying to do is explain why stuff works or doesn’t for me personally), the Oct. 26 episode got back to the rhythm I was enjoying from the Sept. tapings.
If there’s a knock on this show, it was the reliance on squashes. But even those were all well executed, and served a purpose. I’m more interested in TakeOver, and beyond, as a result of every angle.
How was it for you?