SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
One Thing About WrestleMania 35 Becky Lynch Would Change
Becky Lynch does not know yet if she will main-event WrestleMania 36. But she knows what she would have done differently in the WrestleMania 35 main event.
“If I could change anything from WrestleMania, I would have tried to freakin’ sink on that arm bar,” said Lynch. “Make Ronda Rousey tap out for the first time in her life.”
The night still worked out in Lynch’s favor, though, as she pinned Rousey to become “Becky Two Belts.”
In addition to being the first woman to have her hand raised in the main event at WrestleMania, Lynch became the first woman in WWE history to grace the cover of the “WWE 2K” video game.
“It’s unbelievable to be on the cover of WWE 2K20, it means anything is possible,” said Lynch. “We’ve never had a woman on the cover, so it proves that taking risks pays off. It was a risk for me to be more controversial and outspoken, trying to rile up people as opposed to trying to befriend people.
“We are in the business of conflict. I’ve been trying to build as much conflict with as many people as possible to make things interesting. Sometimes that’s taken the wrong way. Some people get it, some people don’t. But 2K gets it, and it got me on the cover.”
Lynch shares the 2K cover with Roman Reigns, who is also Lynch’s biggest competition for the main-event spot at WrestleMania 36. But despite a driving passion for that main event spot, Lynch has nothing but admiration for Reigns, a two-time cancer survivor.
“When you look at Roman, he’s such an imposing specimen of a man that you never think that such vulnerability lies inside him,” said Lynch. “He’s so inspirational for so many people. He’s such a role model, coming back from leukemia bigger and better than ever. There is no better inspiration than that.”
For a second year in a row, Lynch will wrestle Asuka at the Royal Rumble. Despite winning the Rumble match last year, Lynch lost a singles match to Asuka earlier in the night, and they have built a brilliant storyline that was enhanced by the contract signing on Monday’s Raw, where Asuka continued to be one step ahead of Lynch.
The emphasis on intelligent and more meaningful stories is what Lynch believes has allowed the women’s decision to reach entirely new levels of success in WWE. Lynch was confident that an increased focus on the women’s stars’ storylines would work on the main roster, as she saw the reaction from the crowd during her time in NXT.
“This truly picked up genuine momentum when we got stories that were personal,” said Lynch. “Friendships were on the line, there was betrayal, and I really do think that what we were allowed to do in NXT transformed what we do in WWE now. Being able to have that platform where we could have longer matches, where we could tell engaging stories, and our gender was never a limitation, which it seemed to have been on the main roster.”
One of Lynch’s most inspiring qualities is her ambition. Combined with her relentless drive, there is no accomplishment off-limits for Lynch, who rose from WWE’s most compelling underdog to the face of the company. Her goal now is to main-event multiple WrestleManias beside her peers, and WrestleMania 36 is in her sights.
“We’ve been constantly breaking through glass ceilings,” said Lynch. “We’ve been burning down the house, building up new ones, tearing them down, building up a castle, tearing that down, building up a freaking city, tearing that down, building up a whole new planet. Now the possibilities are endless.”
Fallout From Tessa Blanchard Accusations and Impact Wrestling’s ‘Hard to Kill’ Pay-Per-View
Tessa Blanchard led the wrestling news cycle this past weekend, but for all the wrong reasons.
A day before main-eventing Impact Wrestling’s “Hard to Kill” pay-per-view on Sunday in a match for the promotion’s world title, Blanchard sent out a seemingly innocuous tweet encouraging women to support one another.
The response was immediate and severe, as many of Blanchard’s peers shared firsthand accounts alleging Blanchard demeaned colleagues and even used racial slurs.
By the end of the night on Saturday, the stories piled up to an alarming degree.
From personal experience, my interactions with Blanchard have always been positive. She was professional, kind, and upfront in every single one of our interactions. But, if the accusations are true, then there is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
This is more than a case of immaturity. An apology is necessary.
When you are wrong, you apologize. In 2020, the relationship between performer and audience is more evolved than ever. Blanchard is under too big a spotlight—as a performer, role model and standard-setter—to do anything but apologize and vow that she will hold herself to a higher standard.
Blanchard closed out Impact’s pay-per-view this past Sunday by winning the world title, but an otherwise outstanding match with Sami Callihan was clouded by accusations and an unwillingness to address the controversy. She did obliquely refer to the elephant in the room after the show went off the air, saying, “Nobody, nobody in this life is perfect.”
There is no doubt that people will criticize Blanchard even if she apologizes. But it is the right thing to do—and should be the only option—in her position as the face of Impact.
“Dashing” Chris Bey Quickly Emerging as One of Wrestling’s Top Prospects
When Cody Rhodes held an impromptu Q&A on Twitter Sunday morning, the final question he fielded asked if there were any wrestlers on the indie scene who have caught his attention.
Rhodes’ answer was “Dashing” Chris Bey, one of wrestling’s emerging stars on the independents.
It was still early on the West Coast, and Bey was still under the covers in his Las Vegas apartment when he found out that Rhodes had given him quite the endorsement.
“I was just waking up, checking my phone, when I noticed people starting tagging me,” said Bey. “That got me right out of bed and motivated for the day.”
Bey is setting the wrestling world aflame at only 23, and he expressed his gratitude to Rhodes for mentioning his name in a vastly competitive field.
“Growing up, I was a huge fan of Cody Rhodes, and I still am, so to have him say that is very surreal,” said Bey. “It’s cool to know I’ve been able to start making an impact in what I love, which is wrestling.”
The youngest of seven children, Bey has been a wrestling fan since he was three years old. The moment he knew this was his future was when he watched Eddie Guerrero win the WWE championship. But he never seized the dream until he was 20, after the passing of his father.
“My dad never saw me attempt what I was obsessed over,” said Bey. “Losing him motivated me to get off my ass and wrestle. His last name was Bey. That’s why I kept the name.”
Bey appeared on WWE’s 205 Live, Ring of Honor and Impact all in the same week this October, but he is best known in wrestling for his work on the indies. He has an ambitious month ahead of him, including a high-profile match on January 23 against former WWE star Rich Swann at the Bar Wrestling vs. GCW show in Baldwin, Calif. Bey is also the Without A Cause champion, and he has issued an open challenge for the January 19 show in Everett, Wash., as well as the champion of Los Angeles-based Maverick Wrestling. But his home promotion is Future Stars of Wrestling in Las Vegas, which is where he trained in 2016 after moving from Alexandria, Va.
Two months ago, Bey held four different championships in four different states—fitting for someone who once collected wrestling title belts. He had his first match in October 2016, two months after he began training, and he knew, whether he was learning between the ropes or on the ring crew, that wrestling was his calling.
“This is what I want to do and this is what I need to do,” said Bey. “I’ve set big goals, and I’m always trying to work as hard as I can to achieve them.”
Bey is a hybrid in the ring. He can work the lucha libre style, is able to chain wrestle and work submissions, and he is very smooth and acrobatic while still showing off his power. Watching him perform, it looks as though there is nothing Bey cannot do.
The next goal for Bey is to establish a presence on television.
“I want to land on a major television platform this year so I can start to show the world my wrestling ability and character work,” said Bey, who is also talented on the microphone. “The independents are super fun and I love them, but I also want to produce quality TV.”
There is no shortage of landing spots for Bey to showcase his character development. Rhodes is an Executive Vice President for All Elite Wrestling, and he is clearly aware of Bey’s work, but he would also be an instant fit for Major League Wrestling, Ring of Honor, the NWA or Impact Wrestling. Naturally, WWE would also be a storybook landing spot.
“I’ve dreamed about WWE since I was three years old,” said Bey. “Being able to wrestle Ariya Daivari on 205 Live in Vegas, and hearing a large portion of the crowd say my name, was incredible to me. Randy Orton was my favorite wrestler growing up, and I still remember him becoming World Heavyweight Champion at 24 years old. I’ll never forget thinking, ‘When I’m 24, I’m going to be great, too.’ I will be 24 next month, and I want to make my 8-year-old me proud.”
While his future destination remains uncertain, the chiseled Bey plans on reaching uncharted heights in wrestling through an unrelenting drive in the ring and the gym.
“Cody saying my name means a lot to me, but that just means I have to work harder,” said Bey. “I want to be better every day, and I want to become the ultimate version of myself as a performer and a human being in the way I’m able to contribute to society.
“I want to provide opportunities and help people the way people have helped me and given me opportunities. I’m focused on moving forward, and I’m going to keep working hard.”
The (Online) Week in Wrestling
- The crowd will erupt if R-Truth eliminates Brock Lesnar from the Royal Rumble.
- AEW and WarnerMedia announced that Dynamite has been renewed through 2023 and that a new AEW TV series will be added on another night.
- The finish of last week’s Dynamite, with Jon Moxley accepting and then turning on Chris Jericho’s Inner Circle, was brilliantly executed.
- This week marks the 28-year anniversary of the split of The Rockers. Last year, Marty Jannetty told Sports Illustrated that he did not expect his split with Shawn Michaels to be a seminal moment in wrestling history, instead, “I was hoping that moment would last six months.”
- The Wrestling Observer reported that Matt Hardy is the leading candidate to lead AEW’s Dark Order once his WWE deal expires in March.
- Buddy Murphy joining Seth Rollins on Raw should elevate his spot on the card, and it will be an interesting twist if this is what finally propels him to victory over Aleister Black.
- Steve Austin, whose Straight Up Steve Austin show was just renewed for a second season by the USA Network, delivered a fantastic interview with Kane on the WWE Network, and was also the subject of a terrific Bleacher Report feature by Jonathan Snowden.
- Court Bauer’s MLW announced some major news yesterday that shows the forward progress and vision of the company.
- The triple threat match for the NXT UK Women’s Championship was the highlight of Sunday’s NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool.
- Perhaps the best wrestling news of the week is that Alex Shelley and Kushida are back together again, this time in NXT.
- John Morrison, who makes his WWE in-ring return for the first time in eight years this Friday in a match against Big E, has instantly added excitement to SmackDown.
- The Rock on NBC? I’ll be watching.
New Roman Reigns Jimmy’s Seafood Menu Item to Benefit Connor’s Cure
Roman Reigns has a long and distinguished list of accolades in pro wrestling, and now he can add sushi to the list.
Jimmy’s Famous Seafood, the Baltimore mainstay with close ties to the wrestling industry, has created the Roman Reigns Roll: a sushi roll consisting of lobster, crabmeat, scallops, mango ponzu and eel sauce.
Jimmy’s owner John Minadakis spearheaded the movement to name the roll after Reigns as a way to recognize his work with children as well as raise awareness about the battle against leukemia. The proceeds from every Roman Reigns Roll go directly to Connor’s Cure, a foundation dedicated to eradicating pediatric cancer.
“We’ve raised over a couple thousand dollars so far, and it’s also raised awareness with our customers who aren’t wrestling fans,” said Minadakis, whose restaurant is known as much for its crab cakes as its charitable endeavors. “The logo is pretty eye-catching, and we’ve seen people pull out their phones to learn more about where their money is going.”
Reigns is only the second person to get a menu item named after him at Jimmy’s, and the honor is well-deserved.
“This is our way of acknowledging what he has done for Make-A-Wish, Jimmy’s, and the community,” said Minadakis, whose annual golf event this spring will also raise money for Connor’s Cure. “We incorporated all the menu items he took a liking to in his visits here, and that’s how the roll was created. In our industry, that’s the highest honor.”
Jimmy’s Seafood contributes to a number of charities, and Minadakis is constantly seeking new ways to raise funds, especially for children battling such an incredibly cruel disease.
“No kid should have to go through cancer,” said Minadakis. “Our goal is to make childhood cancer go away. That would be a blessing, and that’s what we’re fighting for.”
Tweet of the Week
Congratulations to all of the WWE signees, especially Mercedes Martinez, who has worked and sacrificed for nearly 20 years for this opportunity.