Analysis of the live event experience of the top wrestling companies

The top two pro wrestling companies in the country happened to host shows five days apart in the same county. (Author: Gardener)

five daysThe Post's Joseph Staszewski will take you through the world of professional wrestling every Tuesday in his weekly column, the Post Match Angle. The top two pro wrestling companies in the country happened to host shows five days apart in the same county. That was the rare event that happened recently on Long Island when WWE hosted "Friday Night SmackDown" at Nassau Coliseum on May 6th and All Elite Wrestling brought "AEW Dynamite" and "Rampage" to the UBS Arena on May 11th. As a native of Queens - turned Long Islander, I had the opportunity to attend both shows and it was the perfect opportunity to analyze the live event experience for both companies' 2-hour live TV shows. To put it simply, WWE feels more like a fantastic Broadway play, a Carnegie Hall musical, or a variety show with more full families and kids in the audience. AEW has more of the energy and vibe of a rock music festival with bands opening, performances and then an encore of sorts. The AEW crowd appeared to be older, ranging from 18 to 49, with a few families or fathers taking their sons as far as I could see. WWE opened the doors at around 6:30 p.m. The show itself begins at 7:45 p.m. and lasts until about 10:30 p.m. in the building for a total of about four hours if you were there from start to finish. AEW opened doors at 6:00 p.m. and started Dark Elevation matches at 7:00 p.m. and if you stayed to the end, you left the building around 11:45 p.m. That's almost six hours in the building on a school evening. Fans attending SmackDown were able to watch a total of seven matches, including a pre-show Dark Match and Cody Rhodes vs. Seth Rollins in a Post-SmackDown Dark Main Event (live audience only) in which the crowd was heavily invested. The show was the last episode before WrestleMania Backlash, so you might see a slight increase in matches for a regular SmackDown. Those who were in the building for AEW were able to watch a total of 17 matches of varying lengths (six for Dark Elevation, six for Dynamite, four for Rampage, and a dark match featuring Keith Lee and Swerve Strickland vs. There's a reason for the big match- Discrepancy, both logistically and philosophically, AEW is filming three shows that day, not one like WWE, and it has to because it means the promotion only has to roll out the very expensive production trucks for TBS and TNT once a week, AEW supports relies heavily on his in-ring action and match quality and has a large roster that needs to function, so for now this is the best way to go about that, although 17 matches is more than we used to have at one-day WrestleMania and can be a long day for some.Fans left UBS in waves—some to Dynamite, some to Rampage—but the majority of viewers stayed to the end, still vocally invested in what si e saw. When WWE comes to town it brings a split roster and with the two live shows on different networks doesn't have to do much in one day, although a little more non-stop wrestling on the card either at the beginning or end would have been a plus. Unlike AEW, WWE also hosts non-televised shows that feature a lot of pure wrestling. WWE has changed the way commercial breaks are handled for live audiences over the years, but the current release feels like more starts and stops and downtime than in the past. As an example, Happy Corbin came out to start his Happy Talk segment in an empty ring. After his performance, the lights went out and the WWE crew began assembling his set in the ring, playing the show in television commercials and in video packages and video screen ads. When the television returned, the lights came on and Corbin's music played as he sat on set ready to start the segment. During matches going into intermission, WWE brought commentators Michael Cole and Pat McAfee on-screen and pumped their comments into the arena, allowing audiences to invest more in the matches. Maybe it's something AEW can consider to give fans a taste of Jim Ross, Tony Schiavone and Excalibur. During other breaks, WWE used a DX camera and an on-screen sign camera to entertain fans and make them a part of the show. AEW's presentation feels a little less disjointed, with ring announcer Justin Roberts essentially playing the role of anchor for the night. Like at a rock concert, he will introduce some members of the AEW crew and judges telling fans to help out wrestlers who have just finished their performance in the ring as they walk out directing the crowd to his Instagram Live feed and signs read. Live crowd interaction can make breaks feel shorter. Roberts will also tell fans they'll be back live in 20 seconds and do a countdown. In a situation similar to WWE's with Corbin, AEW set up the staging for MJF's determination segment with Wardlow with the lights on and dispatched the first security crew before the wrestlers were introduced. That felt very similar to how WWE did things before the pandemic, when segments didn't start and stop live, but generally one act closed and the other started. It's just another reminder of how differently the two companies operate, which isn't a bad thing. Because while the Plainviewer native is ripping it up like a conquering hero, he's also beautifully trolling the rest of the country. The UBS Arena has become the wrestling Bizzaro world for MJF. It's the only place in the country where one of the top heels in the industry is treated like a true babyface. His entire segment last week on Dynamite was a clinic about knowing your audience and working it to get any response you wanted. To stay true to his brand, he even called people poor in the cheap places but told them he loved them anyway. He winked, winked at the crowd, booing Wardlow out of the building whenever he tried to speak. MJF asked her to boo him a second time, but the crowd told him they didn't even want him to try. MJF, who has been very vocal about free agency in 2024, was able to make his hometown part of the show, part of the angle — just like he did during his feud with CM Punk. And that's why punk is still booed on LI, leaning towards the particular organic nature of it (John Tavares jersey and all). That level of audience interaction and manipulation — like a top comic or host — should be the goal for every pro wrestler, but only a handful can actually pull it off and too few even attempt it. MJF made the audience the show - while his mum walked around the stands with a sign that read 'This A-hole forgot to wish me Happy Mother's Day' and was asked to take photos. What makes it even smarter is that Long Island's love for him will likely infuriate the rest of the country. So Wardlow still gets the sympathy of that audience. And MJF doesn't exactly help with that, but there's no denying his elite-level talents. If you read all the tea leaves and analyze what's being reported about Sasha Banks and Naomi dropping out on Monday Night Raw, the only explanation that feels logical is that the two were committed to the direction and importance of the WWE Women's Use tags Team championships. Banks' reverence for them has long been documented, and this is Naomi's first title since she was the 2017 SmackDown Women's Champion. Too often, the tag belts have been an afterthought in WWE programming, a way to give top singles stars something to do on the show, only light storylines around them, or the belts are rarely defended. If all of this boils down to Banks and Naomi finally taking a stand on all of this, then it's about time someone at the company did. WWE booked its babyfaces so badly that after a month with the company, Cody Rhodes is already the top do-gooder based mostly on his own creation. So much so that he has a Raw countdown clock so people don't miss him. NXT may have just the underdog they need in Cora Jade to finally unseat Mandy Rose as women's champion. The 22-year-old looked like she belonged in her match with Natalya last week. Jeff Hardy and Darby Allin tore down the house, but I wasn't a fan of changing the rules to make anything legal in a tournament game just to drive them crazy. It was another indication that this match would have been better with a real non-tournament build. As I've progressed through My Rise in WWE 2K22, I believe I've challenged Samoa Joe four times as a challenger for the NXT Championship in an open challenge, won four times, and then had to win him again in a separate story and am it still not listed as a champion. At some point, WWE has to reach Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton for a World Championship, right? Fans seem to want it. Impact has put together a number one Queen of the Mountain women's match for Slammiversary, which will feature Deonna Purrazzo, Mia Yim, Jordyanne Grace, Taya Valkyrie and Tasha Steelz. The newest member of the Bullet Club won his third IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship by pinning Will Osprey after a low blow to win the fatal four-way main event at Capital Collision in Washington on Saturday. The other two men in the match were Jon Moxley and Hiroshi Tanahashi. What it also means for Juice is a likely big appearance at both Dominion (NJPW's SummerSlam) and AEW crossover show Forbidden Door in June. WWE has kept us waiting for this match and it seems we're finally getting it - unless they ended it with a DQ and moved it to Hell in a Cell. Randy Orton and Riddle get a chance to give The Bloodline their first taste of real adversity, and the Usos can add more gold and a sense of invincibility to the group. He called it a "terrible" time for him and his family.


Details behind Sasha Banks and Naomi leaving WWE before RAW

Sasha Banks and Naomi left Monday Night RAW last night amid an apparent creative dispute with the company. PWInsider reported Monday night t (Author: Gardener)

Sasha BanksSasha Banks and Naomi left Monday Night RAW last night amid an apparent creative dispute with the company. PWInsider reported Monday night that Banks was questioning "some of the planned creative things" for RAW's main event, which was supposed to be a six-pack challenge, to determine the next challenger for Bianca Belair's Raw Women's Championship, which was supposed to be both Naomi and Banks Part of. The report stated that Banks had a meeting with Vince McMahon and when McMahon didn't change plans, Banks would "not back down on her issues" and would keep the record with her tag team partner Naomi. Disputants say in their report it's not clear if Naomi was part of the discussion, but Dave Meltzer says she was. I think some of it was like Sasha was the one and Naomi went with her, but from what I'm told it was both. Fightful went on to say that it's worth noting that at the time the WWE Raw Rundowns were released, there was no assigned producer or judge for the main event match. WWE hastily produced some segments to prepare for the change, but they were also reflected in the rundowns distributed ahead of the show. Fightful also reported that Naomi was originally set to win the six pack challenge. The match was to feature Banks, Naomi, Doudrop, Nikki A.S.H., Asuka and Becky Lynch, which was advertised at the start of tonight's Raw. In a later segment backstage, Lynch told Adam Pearce that she saw Banks and Naomi walking with their gear and tried to name herself as the number one contender. Pearce declined, instead turning the six-pack challenge into a singles match between Lynch and Asuka, where the winner would face RAW Women's Champion Bianca Belair. Later during the show, announcer Corey Graves mentioned that Banks and Naomi "left the arena unprofessionally." WWE unusually released a statement on the matter: "When Sasha Banks and Naomi arrived at the arena this afternoon, they were informed of their participation in tonight's Monday Night Raw Main Event. “During the broadcast, they walked into WWE Head of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis' office, bags in hand, placed their tag team championship belts on his desk and walked out. "They claimed they weren't respected enough as tag team champions. "We regret that we were unable to hold today's main event as announced." Fightful says those close to the situation have said that Naomi and Banks did not claim that they did not want to work with Becky Lynch or Asuka, although that was implied in WWE's statement, and these were the two women referenced. Instead, Banks and Naomi wanted to team up with Nikki ASH and Doudrop for a match at the Hell in a Cell PPV. The idea of ​​Sasha and Naomi considering someone "unsafe" was new to the talent and unknown until the statement was released. WWE Talent also received the statement on their internal Talent Relations app. Sasha Banks & Naomi's PPV match was turned down - presumably by McMahon - and there was a pitch to meddle them in the Naomi vs Bianca Belair PPV match instead. We're told that Sasha Banks and Naomi's issues were mostly concerns about the direction of their tag team and the division as a whole. Given the lack of attention the women's tag team championships have had in the past, that's not hard to believe.


Sasha Banks and Naomi Leave WWE Raw; Banks is no longer following WWE

Sasha Banks and Naomi left WWE Raw due to creative differences. (Author: Gardener)

Sasha BanksSasha Banks' rocky WWE history took an ugly turn last Monday when the Women's Tag Team Champion busted alongside Naomi at WWE Raw. According to a WWE statement, Banks and Naomi put the tag team titles on the desk of WWE Head of Talent Relations, John Laurinaitis, before leaving the house, saying they don't respect them enough as female tag team champions would. WWE previously held a six-pack challenge to determine the #1 contender for the WWE Raw Women's Championship. Instead, the match was changed when WWE Official Adam Pearce determined that Sasha Banks and Naomi had left during the show. While this appeared to be plot-wise — given Graves' longstanding criticism of Banks as part of his character — the strike was reportedly legitimate. According to PWInsider (h/t Wrestling Inc), Banks was reportedly struggling with WWE creativity ahead of Monday's WWE Raw from Norfolk, Virginia. Banks requested a meeting with Vince McMahon, which she was granted, and when he didn't budge on his creative decisions, Banks left the arena. Naomi walked out alongside her tag team partner, though she was reportedly set to win the match and become the new No. 1 contender. This developing story fosters a volatile history of tension between Sasha Banks and WWE. Banks' previous break with WWE in 2019 resulted in the superstar skipping a recording session for The Wendy Williams Show before taking a leave of absence from the company. Banks' absence lasted five months before returning as a heel. Since her return, Banks has shined as one of the top stars and M.V.Ps of the pandemic, was the first black woman to headline WrestleMania alongside Bianca Belair, and is the reigning WWE Women's Tag Team Champion. Banks spoke about battling depression while she was away while being featured on the WWE Chronicle. I've asked myself who I am as a person and the path I've walked scared me, so I'm very proud of myself for taking this step to step away from something I love very much Love.” WWE issued a statement regarding Banks and Naomi's strike: “When Sasha Banks and Naomi arrived at the arena this afternoon, they were informed of their participation in tonight's Monday Night Raw Main Event. During the broadcast, they walked into WWE Head of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis' office, bags in hand, placed their tag team championship belts on his desk, and walked out. They claimed they weren't respected enough as tag team champions. This isn't even the first story of wrestlers and creative differences with WWE in the past 30 days. Ahead of Alexa Bliss' return, Bliss reportedly expressed frustration with her creative plans. With so many moving parts and a slew of outcomes in this story — especially with Tony Khan just a tweet away — the Naomi and Sasha Banks saga is far from over.


Asuka earns the title shot after Naomi and Sasha Banks leave the show

Naomi and Banks left the arena legitimately after having problems with WWE's plans for the night (Author: Gardener)

AsukaWWE Raw fell victim to very unusual circumstances Monday night when disagreements over creative decisions between WWE Women's Tag Team Champions Naomi and Sasha Banks and WWE officials resulted in the duo exiting the show. That decision left WWE in contention for a new Main Event as both were scheduled to compete in a Six Women's Tag Match to crown a #1 contender for the Raw Women's Championship. WWE eventually settled on a match between Becky Lynch and Asuka for the Main Event, with Asuka emerging victorious. She is now in line to take on Bianca Belair for the Raw women's title at Hell in a Cell. Still, the story that will dominate headlines for the coming days will be Banks and Naomi's decision to exit a show as it aired. During the show's opening, it was mentioned that the main event of the evening was to be a six-woman match to determine Belair's next challenger. Less than an hour into the show, Becky Lynch was shown backstage with WWE Official Adam Pearce, explaining that Naomi and Sasha Banks left the arena before the match, only for Pearce to say they were with Asuka now would meet to have the right to run against Belair. Details later emerged that the situation was legitimate as Banks and Naomi questioned the creative direction and left the arena midway through the taping. Asuka defeated. Becky Lynch via pinfall with eye fog and a buzzsaw kick. Belair sat ringside, causing Lynch to be repeatedly distracted by her presence. Late in the match, Lynch threw Asuka into Belair before attempting to hit Asuka with an umbrella. Asuka responded by spitting mist in Lynch's face before executing a kick and scoring a win to earn a match with Belair in Hell in a Cell. Obviously, the story of the evening is the chaos surrounding Banks and Naomi exiting the show in progress. WWE had to adapt on the fly and ended up in a match between two of the most talented women on the roster. Belair will be outstanding regardless of the unconventional approach to the game. * Bobby Lashley defeated. Omos in a cage match. Omos joined the attack before WWE officials broke up the melee. Lashley then stormed into the ring and demanded the fight begin. MVP and Alexander kept interfering throughout the game. * Defeated Veer Mahan. Miz got in Ali's way during the match, resulting in the goal and a continued attack on Ali until the Mysterios came in to save. * Riddle def. Jimmy Uso via pinfall with a roll up. The ref caught Jey Uso trying to help Jimmy cheat to get the pin and set up the final roll-up. * def. AJ Styles & Finn Balor. Los Lotharios via pinfall when Balor hit Humberto Carrillo with the coup de grace. The match came after a promo by The Judgment Day targeting Styles, Balor and Liv Morgan (who was ringside with Balor and Styles). * Defeated Alexa Bliss. Sonya Deville via pinfall with a DDT. Deville hit the referee after the game. * Cody Rhodes challenged Seth Rollins to a match in Hell in a Cell. Rhodes then threw down a challenge to Hell in a Cell, which Rollins took on the tron ​​to accept. * Ezekiel def. Chad Gable via pinfall with Kevin Owens and Otis at ringside.


Winners, grades, reactions and highlights from May 16th

Welcome to the Bleacher Report coverage and recap of WWE Raw on May 16th. WWE is gearing up for the Hell in a Cell event on June 5, but the show is also delving into storylines that may end up going nowhere with the prospect... (Author: Gardener)

May 16thWWE is gearing up for the Hell in a Cell event on June 5, but the show is also exploring storylines that may end up going nowhere on the pay-per-view. This week, Bobby Lashley stepped into a steel cage match against giant Omos for another. These two have been at it for almost two months, so this could be the epic conclusion to their feud. Let's take a look at everything that happened during Monday's show. WWE wasted no time getting to the only match they announced for The Monday Show. After a half-length video package, Omos and MVP came out and gave a promo from inside the cage, which lasted a few more minutes before Lashley came out. Cedric Alexander ran down during his performance and attacked The All Mighty. We ended up going to a commercial before the game started. The bell was ringing right away when we got back. The giant immediately took control of the powerhouse and began brutalizing him throughout the cage. MVP even shot through the cage while the referee was distracted. This was a much better setting for a showdown between these two than a traditional match. Omos is still limited in the ring, so making the fight more about punches and throws than holding and counters helped to cover up his limitations. Lashley made him look good by selling well on all of his offense. Alexander came back and tried to stop the former WWE Champion from leaving the cage, but he ended up being pulled in and thrown to the mat. The Nigerian giant picked up Lashley and threw him through the wall of the cage, causing Lashley to touch the ground and win the match. This wasn't the first time we've seen such a finish in a cage match, but it was done well enough to feel appropriate. That's how good the WWE production team is, despite not setting a high bar. This feud was relatively paint-by-numbers. When Alexander ran down to attack Lashley, I assumed it was a production guy who came out to remove the pedestal Lashley was standing on for his performance. As soon as he started sprinting, it was clear what was happening. The bump Alexander got from the top of the cage was crazy, but no one will treat it as anything special because we're used to seeing things like that. Austin Theory came out before the break so everyone thought he was in the next game. After Mustafa Ali made his appearance, Theory revealed The Miz would be the special guest referee. Then Theory revealed that Ali would indeed fight Veer Mahaan. Ali took a little offense, but his speed wasn't enough to keep him out of Veer's grasp for long. The powerhouse quickly turned the match in his favor and began punishing the overachiever. Ali eventually succumbed to Veer's submission finisher. Theory snapped a selfie with Veer as he held Ali in the hold. The Mysterios ran down and prevented Ali from being led through a table. This section encouraged two feuds, but not in a way that could be considered very significant. Nothing looked bad, it just wasn't memorable. Theory's opening music recently changed, and it's worse. The pop for the Mysterios was pretty big. We should have known that Ali would take a few casualties on his return. At least he's implementing someone who's supposed to be unstoppable and not a simple jobber. The feud between the Usos and RK-Bro continued this week with a one-on-one match between Jimmy Uso and Riddle. These two guys are great athletes who are known for being physical performers so this match had some good action between moments of interference and distraction. Riddle picked up some momentum after the break, but Jimmy was able to temporarily stop him with a Samoa drop. The referee threw Jey off ring for trying to help his brother cheat and that paved the way for Riddle to achieve the win with an inside cradle. The ending might not have been very creative, but most of the game was fun and showing off why these two guys are so prominent. Between the LED wall, the flashing lights, and the occasional pyrotechnics, WWE needs to start displaying a seizure warning before their shows. It's a bit much. Jimmy's jump out of the ring was nice. Someone should compile a statistic comparing the inside cradle to the schoolboy rollup to see which is more dangerous. Finn Balor and AJ Styles approached Liv Morgan and asked her to be in their corner for this tag team match against Angel and Humberto as they all have issues with Judgment Day. She was initially reluctant, but chose to join them ringside. Two veterans like Styles and Balor working alongside two up-and-coming talents like Los Lotharios almost guaranteed a fun match would ensue as long as they were given enough time. The heels used classic strategies to keep Styles grounded and isolated from his partner, and the baby faces made good use of the hot day. Balor was able to get the win with the coup de grace. Since Judgment Day never appeared, Morgan's presence ended up being a bit unnecessary. Los Lotharios are listed as SmackDown Superstars, but WWE hasn't even attempted to provide a reason as to why they were on Raw this week. Balor and Styles' double slingshot crossbodies were almost perfectly in sync. The woman Angel and Humberto kissed before the match sold really well. The goddess scored the win last week, so Deville was looking for a little revenge. At first, Deville tried to push Bliss around, but the former women's champion was able to make a few moves to support her. After a back and forth fight in the fourth bout, Bliss hit her signature DDT for the win. This match was a little short, but both women made everything they did look decent, save for one small misstep that caused an awkward pause. Bliss had new music this week that included a vocal track. It was okay, but not quite as instantly recognizable as their original song. Deville looks more like a character from a Matrix movie every week. The running knee that hit Deville to make a near fall looked from the camera perspective, they used looked great. Cody Rhodes came out after his attack two weeks ago to deliver a promo addressed to Seth Rollins. This was a standard American Nightmare promo, meaning it was good, but probably a little longer than necessary. He kept everyone's attention, so it still worked. Eventually, he challenged Rollins to a match at Hell in a Cell. He accepted the challenge and Rhodes said he would see him in Hell. In the next match, Chad Gable faced Ezekiel. Kevin Owens joined the commentary team and continued to spread his wild conspiracy theory that Zeke is lying about being Elias' younger brother. Gable and Ezekiel had a decent match, but the camera cropped a little too much on Owens. The last minute of the game had a few hiccups but most of what we saw here was good. We've only seen Rollins on the big screen, so we'll never really know how ridiculous his suit was this week. Ezekiel's performance music sounds unfinished. It's that generic. The Gory Special Ezekiel applied to Gable was great. Not only did he apply it perfectly, but he also jerked Gable's arms in a way that looked really painful. When Ezekiel hit Gable with a bouncing knee, you could see he was a long way from making contact. The main event of the night was Becky Lynch Take on Asuka, with the winner getting a shot at Bianca Belair's Raw Women's Championship, but the bigger story had to do with this originally being intended to be a six pack challenge. WWE released a statement that Naomi and Sasha Banks left the arena after he refused to compete. At the time of this article's publication, none of the women had issued a statement. As soon as the game started, Big Time Becks and The Empress went to war. The fight quickly left the ring and Lynch threw Asuka into the barricade. These two always put on a great performance and this match was no exception. They went hard from bell to bell. Asuka won the match by blowing green mist in Lynch's face before hitting a big kick to the head for the pin. Lynch tried to attack her with an umbrella, so it was justified. Odd backstage messages aside, this was a pretty strong episode of Raw, especially compared to the rest of 2022's episodes. WWE chose not to turn this into a Fatal 4-Way instead, so Doudrop and Nikki A.S.H. were left out in the cold. Corey Graves admitted Banks and Naomi leaving the building was unexpected. WWE usually keeps the backstage drama off screen. Since we don't know the full story, please respectfully keep the discourse surrounding Naomi and Banks commonplace.


Winners, grades, reactions and highlights from May 11th

The Owen Hart Foundation men's and women's tournaments officially began Wednesday night on TBS with quarterfinal action, including a showdown between Toni Storm and Jamie Hayter that had been in the making for weeks... (Author: Gardener)

May 11thAEW Dynamite Results: Winners, Grades, Reactions and Highlights of May 11th AEW Dynamite Results: Winners, Grades, Reactions and Highlights of May 11th Storm and Jamie Hayter, who has been working on for weeks. Adam Cole rounded out the tournament action while Long Island's favorite son MJF returned to UBS for the signing ahead of his double-or-nothing match against Wardlow. and was "Absolute" Ricky Starks able to successfully defend the FTW Championship against AEW Tag Team Champion Jungle Boy? Find out now with this recap of the May 11 broadcast. dr Martha Hart watched from a skybox as the tournament honoring her late husband Owen's legacy began with a quarterfinal match pitting Ring of Honor and AAA Tag Team Champion Dax Harwood against Adam Cole for two exceptional in-ring Talents delivered a bang to get the show started, with Harwood expertly selling his rib injury throughout. The attention to detail, including the babyface that couldn't keep control of the sharpshooter, was fantastic and reflects what makes FTR such a celebrated team. Awesome himself, Cole plays up his character's heel elements, teasing Sweet Chin Music and eventually achieving victory with the Hart family's vaunted sniper. The psychology was great, the match was smartly fought, the reverence for the Hart family of Harwood was evident and Right Man was paramount in terms of providing star power for the rest of the competition. Cameras caught Martha watching, a welcome sight given her estranged (and understandable) relationship with the industry her husband starred in. Harwood either sold a rib injury or was seriously injured early in the game. Cole sent Harwood sternum first into the turnbuckle, aka Owen's brother, WWE Hall of Famer Bret Hart. It's hardly the first time the latter has paid homage to The Hitman. Harwood's Slingshot Powerbomb resulted in a great near fall. Cole taunted Shawn Michaels' Sweet Chin Music, which drew huge cheers from Long Island fans. The Sharpshooter by Das Babyface caused a thunderous ovation. Cole applied it himself shortly after. AEW World Champion Hangman Page joined the commentary team as his No. 1 contender CM Punk battled Long Island's John Silver. A solid match previously dominated by Punk Silver delivered a spirited comeback, fueled by cheers from his family, friends and fans. However, Johnny Hungee failed to take down Punk with a Tornado DDT, and the Straight Edge superstar took him out with the Buckshot Lariat in a direct message to Page. The match was a rarity as Punk worked mostly with the heel the first time I saw that on AEW. It was possibly a sign of things to come, as Page downplayed the Heelish attitude that permeated his promo last week. It seems as if the champion and challenger are painting their feud in shades of gray rather than either man choosing a specific side. That will set the stage for an even hotter setting at Double or Nothing in Las Vegas on May 29th for what has the potential to be one of the best and most exciting matches in recent memory. The match was okay, but the tension between Punk's rivals and promo helped improve the segment afterwards. Punk entered the UBS Arena in a New York Islanders jersey, only to reveal it was from John Tavares, who left the team to play with the Toronto Maple Leafs a few years ago. Punk heading to Der Ring, with no theme music and full of boos, was a great moment that played up its hate-hate relationship with the city after last fall. Danhausen's in-ring debut was an awkward one, as he succumbed to a running knee to the face in seconds. After that, Smart Mark Sterling stirred the pot and urged Nese to keep punishing the very nice, very bad fan favorite. That brought out Hook, who flicked his heels before shaking hands with the face-painted, cursing Danhausen to close the segment. This was harmless in that the Nese win heated him up and gave fans the mark of respect between the most unlikely of allies at the moment they really wanted it. The real question is if this is the end of Hook's and Danhausen's on-screen pairing, or if the company will revisit them based on popularity. One thing is for sure: AEW couldn't have picked a better dance partner for Hook in Nese. A great wrestler who will only help with Hook's development, he is perfect for the role. The handshake between Danhausen and Hook defined this segment of the journey to the ring for the signing ahead of his much-anticipated match against Wardlow. Long Island's favorite son basking in his own glory, The Salt of the Earth revealed the terms of his upcoming match with The War Dog: Wardlow must undergo 10 lashes with a leather thong at the hands of MJF and Shawn Spears in a steel cage Defeat Match with the scarf-wearing heel as the special guest referee. After several minutes of hostility from MJF, Wardlow tricked the cocky heel into having his handcuffs removed, then wreaked havoc by destroying security. MJF narrowly escaped his wrath, but not Smart Mark Sterling, who ate a powerbomb through a table to end the segment. The popularity of MJF on Long Island is almost astounding. The guy is such a despicable heel everywhere else, but to see him garner such a positive reaction despite continuing to do and say the same despicable things he always does will always be weird. In a good way, of course. The segment was more great stuff from MJF and Wardlow, clearly inspired by Batista's feud with former mentor Triple H, but putting their own spin on it. It's a story that works and should lead to one of the hottest matches on the Double or Nothing card and, if executed right, the moment that sees the babyface become the company's newest breakout star. MJF urged, but not urged, fans to boo Wardlow as loudly as possible was a fun thing to do. NXT's repeat of Spears' Perfect 10 gimmick was a great thing, as MJF pointed out that the fans sitting further up the arena were poor and silent, and getting a pop was hilarious. In order for Ricky Starks to successfully defend the FTW Championship for an eighth year, he had to defeat the most successful competitor in AEW history, current Tag Team Champion Jungle Boy. Starks found himself on the defensive late and was forced to fight from below if he wanted to retain his title. A high-energy match that highlighted two of the AEW stars of the future saw the right one slip by. Starks continues to hold the title, renewed tension between Jurassic Express, Team Taz and the tandem of Keith Lee and Strickland leads to a PPV three-way, and Jungle Boy's defeat continues to set the stage for betrayal at the hands of frustrated mentor Christian cage This segment has accomplished a lot while delivering a solid match. Taz corrected the commentary team when the FTW Championship was cited as his title by putting the focus back on Starks. It was a small, seemingly meaningless moment, but one that proved Taz understood the task and was only striving to outdo the Team Taz star. The challenger countered the Rochambeau for a powerful near fall and grabbing his shoulder got many thinking, but the veteran held off for another week despite a less-than-satisfied look on his face. The Jericho Appreciation Society's self-proclaimed "victory speech" was interrupted at The Blackpool Combat Club's Jon Moxley, Bryan Danielson, Wheeler Yuta and Sir William Regal made their way to the ring. Unimpressed by the dangerous trio, Chris Jericho pointed out the 5v3 number disadvantage. Then Eddie Kingston, Santana and Ortiz appeared on the apron. Regal dropped Jericho with a hard left hand to drive off the JAS. This was an interesting segment, but not necessarily for the right reasons. Was it great to see the BCC pause and raise their profile after weeks of easy trio matches? If that's ultimately why Regal's contingent of combatants was involved, no harm, no foul. It seems to indicate that a huge tag team brawl of a match at Double or Nothing is on the way, but don't be surprised if it leads to a threesome. Way trios fit together that set the stage for a new set of titles in AEW. A series of titles already created according to Tony Khan. Jericho said after reminding fans in Long Island that he is a local son. Royally banishing Jericho was not only a great moment for the future Hall of Famer, but one that called back their hilarious rivalry dating back to 2001. Toni Storm and Jamie Hayter paid off weeks of anticipation for the quarterfinals of the Owen Hart Foundation Women's Tournament by delivering a fantastic match that was the best of either woman in AEW yet in a series of German suplexes. From there, she countered Hayter's offense into the Storm Zero to claim the hard-fought win. Storm advanced in the tournament with the kind of performance that fans witnessed during their time with NXT: UK but never really got to see in the brand's American counterpart or the main lineup, thanks to woefully inconsistent booking. She's a star and this match showed exactly why. She's got rock star appeal, sure, but she's a hell of a worker with a bright future ahead of her. Hayter, on the other hand, was one of the unsung heroes of the women's division and a heavyweight for her trio with Britt Baker and Rebel. Hayter's uranium on the ring apron was evil, leaving Storm sprawled, her back aching. The finish was clever as Hayter rolled out of a throwback but rolled straight into Storm Zero. It wasn't exactly pretty, but it was a nice exclamation point for a good, hard-fought, physical wrestling match The first quarterfinals of the Owen Hart Foundation Tournament came with certain expectations. Those expectations were met in a wild, chaotic, death-defying Main Event full of highlights and little more. Psychology be damned as Hardy and Allin threw caution to the wind, including one of the most impressive moments you'll see in wrestling this year. The bumps were hard, the action furious, and there was no significant interference from Matt Hardy or Sting, making for a clean finish. After all the punishment the contestants endured, it was a simple wrestling rollup that gave Hardy the win. Fans of this type of match probably thought, as Jim Ross put it, that this was one of the greatest matches in AEW history; a surefire 'A+' match. For everyone else, it was an unforgettable spot fest between two hugely popular wrestlers who are synonymous with putting their bodies on the line to entertain the crowd. Hardy's victory ensures that the only guy in the tournament who actually wrestled Owen Hart will carry on in the competition. The damn spot in a while saw Allin launch a Swanton bomb from the top of a giant ladder at Hardy and two rows of steel chairs. Nobody won there, except the fans. Allin's missed coffin drop, which saw him fall and burn on the ring court, blew the air out of the former TNT Champion. Hardy missed a Swanton on the steel steps, fell and hit the guard rail. Ironically, Hardy won the whole damn thing with a crucifix rollup, a simple wrestling maneuver. The Young Bucks stared down at the Hardys to close out the show, further hinting at a dream match between tag team icons at Double or Nothing.


Simu Liu dances Bhangra at the JUNOs is the Monday motivation we need (VIDEO)

Simu Liu joined Canadian singer Tesher in an upbeat rendition of his hit song "Jalebi Baby," and fans are delighted. (Author: Gardener)

Simu LiuSimu Liu definitely showed up and showed up as the host of Sunday night's JUNO awards. From a rousing "I am Canadian!" speech to a hilarious parody of Avril Lavigne's "Complicated," the Shang Chi star made the show's first in-person event since 2019 a memorable one. Hitesh Sharma, also known as Tesher, is a Saskatchewan-based singer who combines various music genres such as hip-hop, reggaeton, salsa and bhangra in his songs. He took to the JUNOs stage last night to perform his hit single "Jalebi Baby." The performance began with Tesher and his backup dancers until Liu burst onto the stage just in time for the chorus. "Simu Liu dancing bhangra with Tesher was not on my 2022 bingo card," said a Twitter user. simu liu dancing bhangra with tesher wasn't on my 2022 bingo card,,,, Okay, Tesher + Simu Liu is the #JalebiBaby remix I didn't know I needed! Many people of South Asian heritage were thrilled to see all of these displays. Seeing the #junos and seeing Tesher and @SimuLiu perform "Jalebi Baby" and dance Bhangra made this Canadian Punjabi girl so happy and proud 😁 Simu Liu's "I Am Canadian" speech was great... Jalebi Baby' was even better. Well, that's the Canadian #Junos. Others added that it was the perfect way to celebrate Asian Heritage Month. Liu even ended the performance by saying, "This is how we celebrate Asian Heritage Month!" Tesher and Simu Liu perform Jalebi Baby together? And during Asian Heritage Month?! And just like what this person tweeted, the video is the Monday motivation we all needed. It's Monday, so here's my dose of joy to brighten up the week: Tesher's performance with Simu Liu is everything.


(1) Miami Heat vs. (2) Boston Celtics

2022 NBA Conference Finals Preview: (1) Miami Heat vs. (2) Boston Celtics (Author: Gardener)

Miami HeatThe top-ranked Miami Heat and second-ranked Boston Celtics meet in the Eastern Conference Finals. It's a repeat of Miami's 4-2 win over Boston in the same round within the Orlando bubble two years ago. Two years after their surprise run to the 2020 NBA Finals and a season since they were swept by eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks in the opening round of the playoffs, the Heat traded the former All-Star point guard (Kyle Lowry vs. Goran Dragic) and the Veteran Wings (PJ Tucker for Trevor Ariza). Lowry and Ariza were brought in to complement Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, only the 36-year-old played more regular-season games than the two Miami mainstays, and the Heat scratched their way to No. 1 overall. Tyler Herro's rise as a landslide sixth man of the year and Duncan Robinson's recovery from a poor start helped maintain Miami's 12th-rated offense this season. No team better identifies minimal-contract players who embrace its culture, and this year Miami has pulled out the value of Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin, who together scored 40% on nearly five 3-point attempts per game. Miami's money is made on the defensive end, where their 108.4 defensive rating cracked the league's top five during the regular season. They were better by nearly four points per 100 possessions in the first two rounds of the playoffs, smothering All-NBA creators Trae Young and James Harden with lopsided wins over their Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers in the first round and conference semifinals. As he did during the 2020 Miami playoff experience, Butler took his game to another level, scoring on 53/36/81. an average of 29-8-5 in two rounds. Nobody knows this better than the Celtics, who bullied Miami in their 2020 Conference Finals showdown. The Celtics were 18-21 on Jan. 6, battling for a spot in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament. This is after a .500-entry season to their 2020 Eastern Conference Finals. Then, as if the toughness freshman coach Ime Udoka wanted to instill in the first three months of the season settled overnight, Boston transformed mid into a juggernaut that season, devastating almost everyone in the entire league. There is no glaring weakness in their traditional starting line-up of Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Al Horford and Robert Williams III, who posted +24.3 points per 100 possessions in meaningful minutes of the regular season. Grant Williams and trade acquisition Derrick White expand Boston's two-way versatility to seven players. The Celtics possessed the best offense and best defense in the East for the final three months of the regular season, earning a rating (+13.5) equaling that of the Heat (+5.2), the second-best team in the league during that period Conference were, the spread more than doubled. Boston's first two rounds of the playoffs proved that the second-half surge was no fluke. The Celtics' win over Kevin Durant's Brooklyn Nets and their seven-game slugfest against Giannis Antetokounmpo's defending champion Milwaukee Bucks showed their collective growth this season. The Celtics won their regular season series against the Heat 2-1. Likewise, Martin, Vincent and Strus started in place of Butler, Tucker and Lowry in the Heat's 30-point loss to the Celtics on January 31. Their March 30 meeting, which the Heat won 106-98, provided a better insight into the rotations both teams plan to employ in this series. The Celtics were without Robert Williams, who added a bone contusion to meniscus surgery he performed on his left knee nearly seven weeks ago. On the stretch, the Heat's defense smothered a Celtics offense that tended to stagnate late in tight games. Lowry, Butler and Adebayo scored 18 of the 21 points in the heat over the 7:30 final. Miami Heat winger Jimmy Butler and his Boston Celtics counterpart Jayson Tatum will face off in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time in three seasons. His left thigh injury has cost him six of the Heat's 11 playoff games, including all four wins over Philadelphia in the conference semifinals. Butler, Adebayo and Tucker should be on the floor at crucial time against Boston's length and versatility. Strus and Vincent could be more effective as two-wayers unless Miami is desperate for shot creations against Boston's defense. Butler, Adebayo, Tucker, Strus and Vincent carried the Heat through the first two rounds of the playoffs, beating the Hawks and Sixers by 45 combined points in 82 minutes. Likewise, the Celtics' final line-up will depend on what input they get from Robert Williams. Tatum, Brown, Smart and Horford played nearly every minute of the Clutch playoffs for Boston. Fifth place vacillated between White and Grant Williams, depending on who is more effective throughout the game. White is +18 in 54 playoff minutes with the aforementioned quartet; Grant Williams is -21 in 98 minutes. Tatum's profile skyrockets after outplaying Durant the entire first round and dueling Antetokounmpo in two elimination games to end the conference semifinals. They spent less than five minutes directly defending each other during the regular season, according to the NBA's tracking data, and Butler got the best of Tatum in those small sample sizes. Return to the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals, however, when they mostly guarded each other for more than 30 minutes apiece in the six-game streak. Both have shot worse than 40% in these head-to-head bouts, but the gap between Tatum in his third season and now is the difference between a Rand All-Star and an All-NBA lock. Tatum has spent most of his 11 playoff games this season being pursued by Antetokounmpo, Durant, Jrue Holiday, Wesley Matthews and Bruce Brown - all good defenders. He hasn't seen the same level of aggression Tatum has faced to date and he won't find a weak link in Boston's defense. Miami's best shot at beating Boston could depend on Butler being able to trump Tatum at both ends, as the Heat's rotation is more of a poison than the depth of the Celtics' two-way posts. May 23: Miami in Boston, 8:30 p.m. ET (ABC) May 23: Miami in Boston, 8:30 p.m. ET (ABC) May 29: Boston in Miami, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)* 29 May 29: Boston in Miami, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)* May 29: Boston in Miami, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)* May 29: Boston in Miami, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)* May 29: Boston in Miami, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)* Ben Rohrbach is a staff editor at Yahoo Sports. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter!


How the suns fell on the earth

How did the Mavericks tear apart the Suns so effectively? (Author: Gardener)

sunsThe Phoenix Suns ended the regular season with the best record in the NBA, eight games better than the next best team. They led the league in net ratings and were the only team in the league to have top-five offense and top-five defense. And yet, their disastrous Sunday loss to the Dallas Mavericks was their biggest Game 7 home loss of the shot clock era. In the key moments of the season, the Suns saw both units fail spectacularly. After leading 2-0 in a row, Phoenix lost four of their next five games and in that span averaged just 104.1 points per 100 possessions, a rate that would have placed them 28th in the league in the regular season. It also scored 113.7 points per 100 for the Mavs, who would have checked in 26th in the NBA. For most of Game 7, it seemed like the Suns either forgot how to play basketball or never played the sport at all. [ Luka] Dončić to use . You could use Paul's man to set the screen to Bridges instead of Aytons to switch Paul to Dončić. However, Dallas only fielded six picks with Paul's man as a screener in Game 1. The only result the Mavs got from that action was a tip dunk where nobody boxed Dorian Finney-Smith, but they also got a few high- Quality looks that came because the Suns were more willing to send help to Paul when he needed to guard Dončić one-on-one than they were for other defenders in this situation. Paul has now played 702 combined regular season and playoff games during the player-tracking era that dates back to the 2013-14 season. In terms of the number of times CP3's man was used as a screener in pick-and-roll action, games 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 of this series rank third, fifth, second, fourth, and first respectively among these 702 games. He represents five of the nine games in which he has defended the screener in double digits. They relentlessly attacked Paul in space and then smashed through him and into the paint. The fruitfulness of these possessions - as well as certainly the effect they had on Paul's body - led to uncharacteristic mistakes being made by the Suns and Paul themselves. Blown switches, missed assignments, overly aggressive help, late rotations... the sort of things the Suns rarely did during their romp through the regular season. After scoring 47 points in the first two games of the series, Paul totaled 47 points over the next five games, and his game 7 plus-minus of -39 was the worst of his career. Most troubling was his inability to do what he does better than arguably every other player in the NBA: punish drop coverage. During the regular season, Paul saw more drop coverage than any player in the league except Trae Young, with opponents using it on 1,208 of his pick and rolls, according to Second Spectrum. Of the 39 players who saw drop coverage at least 500 times, Paul had the third best effective field goal percentage and his possessions were third best overall. He continued to punish defense in Round 1 against the Pelicans and in Games 1 and 2 against Dallas. The Suns were able to overcome Paul's reduced capacity due to injury early in last year's run to the NBA Finals, and they even excelled during his 15-game absence with a broken thumb in the second half of this season. First, backup point guard Cameron Payne - who had proven to be one of the league's most reliable reserve lead guards over the past two seasons and shone when Paul was either absent or not himself - was so ineffective that Suns coach Monty Williams fired him sat straight down on the bench and turned to Landry Shamet instead. Shamet can shoot from the outside like few others in the league, but he doesn't have nearly the same level of momentum or creativity from dribbles as Payne, let alone Paul. Paul struggling and Payne riding the jaw left Devin Booker as Phoenix's only reliable perimeter creation option. The Mavericks ramped up the aggression when Booker had the ball, sending traps and blitzes and double teams his way in hopes of turning him from a scorer to a distributor. He still found his way to a decent score (22.2 per fight in the last five games of the series), but he shot just 42 percent from the field and averaged 4.8 turnovers compared to just four assists a night. Even when Booker handled the pressure well and created a look for a teammate, things went wrong. Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder and Cameron Johnson combined in Games 3-7 shot just 51 of 131 from the field (38.9 percent) and 21 of 61 from beyond the 3-point line (34.4 percent). Ayton played just 17 minutes in the Game 7 loss, which Williams cryptically described as an "internal" decision in his post-game press conference. The former No. 1 overall — incidentally drafted by the Suns ahead of Dončić despite Phoenix just hiring Dončić's former national team coach (Igor Kokoškov, who is now an assistant with the Mavericks) as head coach — scored just 5 points in the 2-of-5 Shoot, and the Suns were blown up by 23 points with him in the game. At the worst possible time, all of the failsafes built into his list that Phoenix had built in failed to secure his series lead. Despite using multiple high-level ball handlers, a cavalcade of shooters, a post-up option in case the system doesn't look good, multiple all-defense quality stoppers, a roster full of strong position defenders and more, the Suns were still dismantled. The Mavs applied maximum pressure to the one spot the Suns were most likely to break — the body of the team's now 37-year-old point guard. Without Paul operating at full capacity, the remaining suns weren't nearly as bright.


Arsenal are being washed away while resurgent Newcastle ride a wave of fan fervor

For the second game in a row, Mikel Arteta's players were thrown off balance by a raucous home crowd (Author: Gardener)

NewcastleAfter a season of gentle optimism, global improvement and reasons to believe, it felt like it was all coming down to this. The question was whether Mikel Arteta's best Jose Mourinho impression after the north London derby, demonstratively avoiding explicit comments and covering up his Arsenal players by making himself history, should have the desired effect. In a season where the Spaniard's team gave many half-answers, they did it again at St James' Park. The schedule and the occasion called for it and if there was ever a night Arsenal could show that they had truly changed and become a strong team, this was it. This wasn't quite the bear pit they faced in N19 last week (and that initially inspired them), but it wasn't a million miles from when the game started, in an arena that's been closing again of late Returning to their most vibrant best was the departure of Mike Ashley in the autumn - with a crowd poised to celebrate the Newcastle United side's powerful resurgence in 2022 ahead of a summer of unusual optimism. The suspicion was Aaron Ramsdale's warmly acclaimed slip in the opening seconds as he pointed the way to the mishap to come on his opening clearance of the evening and Arsenal began nervously. The inclusion of Ben White and Gabriel in defense had heightened pre-game optimism that they were arriving north with composure and fortitude, even if there were suspicions Arteta was taking a justifiable risk on their fitness. In the early stages, Takehiro Tomiyasu peered cautiously over his shoulder at the lurking Allan Saint-Maximin and if he was facing the right direction it might have been the wrong man as the home side used every possible space behind the right. back through an advancing Matt Targett and Callum Wilson. It was in this corridor of uncertainty that the returning White was given a caution in the eighth minute after failing to spot Wilson's run quickly enough and clipping it. It was clear Newcastle weren't here to gently milk the applause, as an irritated exchange between Wilson and Gabriel in the far corner before the 20-minute mark had pointed out. They pushed back their visitors with increasing rhythm, and one wondered how Arteta could have appreciated a player with the personality of Newcastle's newly-crowned club player of the year Joelinton in the center of the pitch, winning balls and driving his team forward with panache. What Arsenal did was defend with hearts, with White clearing in front of the line after a low delivery from Emil Krafth. The early ring rust gave way to genuine determination, even if the ability to pose a threat on the other end was few and far between. Arsenal fended off the home side's set pieces with courage and conviction in the first half, which was good work as there were many to deal with. At the other end, a couple of typically quick shots from Bukayo Saka were the Gunners' best chance to escape from their own half and move up the pitch, with the England winger their only option to attack the threat. Dan Burn's block from a Saka cross was the first time Arsenal made a truly threatening effort into the home side's penalty area, before cutting in again and securing a save, albeit a comfortable one, from Martin Dúbravka. The Arsenal manager decided early in the second half that the inventive talent required was certainly not enough when Gabriel Martinelli promptly came on to replace the almost invisible Emile Smith Rowe and the Brazilian immediately added some panache to his team. But Wilson's opening goal, created by Joelinton's unstoppable attack down the left – in the gap left by the struggling Tomiyasu, who was eliminated late in the first half – and deftly bounced off the near post, snatched the momentum from them. Arteta, a typically nervous presence throughout the touchline, threw the kitchen sink at it, with the introduction of Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepé his team left what resembled a front five. Worse was to come when Bruno Guimarães, a former Arsenal target, heroically blocked a shot from Martin Ødegaard on one end and pocketed a second almost immediately after Ramsdale thwarted the excellent Wilson.