The Week In Wrestling (2/15/24): 3 Promos That Rocked & 3 That Fell Flat

It's time once again for Wrestling Inc.'s look at the best and the worst promos from the past seven days in the wrestling industry! This week's column covers the period from Friday, February 9 to Thursday, February 15, moving forward in chronological order.


Anyone who watched the final segment from WWE's Las Vegas press event last Thursday knows how important promos and other non-wrestling segments can be for wrestling. The matches are great, but we need everything else — the promos, the drama — to make the matches mean something. As a result, the best promos are worth celebrating as much as any five-star match — while the ones that fall short can be more embarrassing than botching a move in the ring.

With that said, let's take an in-depth look at the week in wrestling promos. Which ones did we like? Which ones did we hate? It's time to find out.

Rocked: Is Dakota Kai with or against Bayley? (WWE SmackDown)

The build-up to the WrestleMania 40 Women's Championship match between titleholder IYO SKY and the 2024 Women's Royal Rumble winner Bayley has already been fantastic so far, but the official introduction of Dakota Kai into the mix has made things even better.


On Friday's episode of "SmackDown," Dakota Kai met with Bayley in the ring following her absence the week prior when SKY, Asuka, and Kairi Sane blindsided Bayley with an attack. Kai worked to prove to Bayley that she wasn't clued into the attack and her loyalties still lay with Bayley rather than the rest of Damage CTRL; she then prevented SKY, Asuka, and Sane from launching a second attack on Bayley.

The segment itself was already the right progression for propelling the storyline forward, but the extra attention to detail from the performers themselves made it memorable. Bayley's wariness of Kai's claims just from her facial expressions and body language alone was especially notable, as it was a way for her to show the growth of her character learning from her past mistakes and betrayals. Kai herself wasn't anything to sleep on either, with the tone and emotion she was able to put into her voice in her delivery of her lines.


Damage CTRL had great chemistry when they were a united front and will inevitably go down in the history books as one of the biggest and memorable female factions of all time (if not the biggest and most memorable). However, they may be even better going up and being pitted against one another.

Written by Olivia Quinlan

Rocked: Seth Rollins offer to be Cody's shield (WWE Raw)

My, how the tide has shifted.

Two years ago, Seth Rollins and Cody Rhodes were pitted against each other in a fierce trilogy of matches, the last of which was contested inside Hell in a Cell. Now, the two seem to be on the brink of an unlikely alliance, primarily motivated by their mutual desire to see Roman Reigns — the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion — dethroned at WrestleMania 40.


As Rollins mentioned in his "WWE Raw" promo, Reigns has kept a tight grip on the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship for over 1,200 days due to his sparing title defenses and repeated assistance from his fellow Bloodline members. In an effort to change this course, Rollins has now offered to help Reigns' next challenger — Cody Rhodes — fend off Reigns and the rest of the active Bloodline, which includes the recently returned Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. In essence, Seth Rollins can be "the shield" utilized by Cody Rhodes in his battle to take down "The Tribal Chief."

This segment not only provided a satisfying callback to Rollins and Reigns' storied partnership in The Shield, but also provided fans with a glimmer of hope that Cody Rhodes may actually break the long, tiring, and predictable cycle of Roman Reigns title defenses. While many WWE promos are scripted, Rollins' words to Rhodes also came across as genuine, which is a true testament to his mic skills and his passion for the professional wrestling business (specifically as it pertains to the presentation of championships).


Written by Ella Jay

Fell Flat: Shinsuke Nakamura, deus ex Titantron (WWE Raw)

Sami Zayn sat in another empty arena Monday night to talk to Jackie Raymond about a plethora of things. Somewhere along the way, after Zayn had spoken at length about his signature resiliency, a voice boomed from the heavens. For a moment, the WWE Universe might have thought that Zayn had died mid-sentence, and ascended towards the pearly gates.


The camera panned over to the Titantron. It was not the face of God on the screen, but rather, the face of Shinsuke Nakamura.

To be fair, Nakamura's promo itself was nothing to be upset about. In between frantic texts between It was more of the usual: Nakamura was menacing, and taunted Zayn to show a darker side of him during their main event together later that night, lest he be cornered by a bloodthirsty Nakamura. What made this segment a flop was not Nakamura's performance, but the absolute silliness of Nakamura appearing on a screen to talk to an empty audience.

The only way to describe Nakamura's unceremonious appearance would be to equate it to mental whiplash. Imagine hearing a voice descend onto Zayn like a divine being, only for the camera to cut to a projection of Nakamura's zoomed-in face (which itself violates personal space, even remotely). The whole cinematic organization was more humorous than serious — something that would be uncharacteristic in a segment involving two of "WWE Raw"'s top stars — and it took away any bite that Nakamura's threats might have had. While Zayn deserves a pat on the back at least for not giggling at the comedy of the situation, there should not have been any comedy in this segment in the first place.


I understand why WWE did this segment the way they did. Having subtitles on Nakamura's Japanese promos benefits everybody: the audience gets to understand what Nakamura is saying immediately, and Nakamura can express himself as eloquently as he wants without a language barrier to worry about. It's not even Titantron promos themselves that are the issue. This segment flopped because in its execution, it was made so unserious. Nakamura's previous Titantron segments were played in front of packed, if not fully sold-out arenas, and his target was in the ring, right in front of him. Zayn, however, was sitting in some random seat in an otherwise-deserted arena, and because he was in a bleacher seat — which, for those unaware, does not have a lot of room to pace or physically react — all he could do was sit awkwardly and watch. The awkward and very visible camera crew around Zayn was, truly, the icing on the cake.

This is a rare instance in which a segment is so good, but for all the wrong reasons. It is surreal comedy at its apex: something that should not have been funny whatsoever is now riotous, because of some poor cinematographic choices. This segment's celebrated absurd hilarity, however, is the reason why it flopped. It was comical, but that comedy took away from the intended effect of the segment.


Written by Angeline Phu

Fell Flat: Oba Femi and Lexis King meet face-to-face (WWE NXT)

Oba Femi is a star you can't deny is on the rise in "NXT," being pushed as North American Champion and improving week after week both in the ring and on the microphone. This was evident this past Tuesday when he was addressing his title defense against Dragon Lee at Vengeance Day a couple weeks ago.


However, the mood changed when Lexis King interrupted looking for a title shot of his own.

See, it feels like all King does every week is walk around bragging about how good he is only to either lose a match or squeak away with a win as the result of some sort of shenanigans. All of his promos start to blend together after a while with one another, and this certainly isn't helped by his week-to-week appearances and current booking.

With all that in mind, Femi and King's exchange was nothing more than a typical '"'m going to beat you as champion, you can't beat me because no one can'"segment to set up their title match next week. While this kind of set-up is fine for an average match, it's not ideal for a title defense. There were better ways to build up Femi and King's match, and WWE could've used this time to do something more inspired.


Written by Olivia Quinlan

Fell Flat: Darby Allin ignores the blood-stained white elephant in the room (AEW Dynamite)

As a man who takes himself too seriously, never has interesting storylines, and relies entirely on the shock value of the things he's willing to do to himself to keep audiences engaged when he's in the ring, it's safe to say Darby Allin has never been my favorite wrestler. But while finding his mic work lacking is nothing new for me, Wednesday's "AEW Dynamite" was something of a new low. And it's not just the fact that he's a mush-mouth who had to repeat his opening line — the entire promo was ill-conceived from start to finish.


Last week, the Young Bucks beat up Allin and Sting, busting Allin open and getting his blood all over their white suits. They've continued to wear those suits since, and they very clearly have not had them dry-cleaned. Do you know how many times Allin mentioned that attack (which, again, happened last week) in his promo this week? ZERO. NONE TIMES. IT DID NOT COME UP. Instead, Allin is out here like "You guys never wanted to hire me, I wasn't on the first episode of 'Dynamite,' you're the reason Brandon Cutler has a job." Like ... what? They beat the s*** out of you last week, my dude! They beat the s*** out of you, and Sting, and Sting's kids, with baseball bats. They have been walking around for a solid week now wearing clothes stained with your blood, and you come out and accuse them of nepotism? What the hell are we doing?


It's such a frustrating tendency of AEW's that they make this stuff so much harder than it needs to be. We didn't need a Darby Allin promo explaining why he's mad at the Young Bucks — again, they beat the s*** out of him. His motives at this point did not require clarification. But he's an AEW wrestler, so he can't just perform a storyline; he needs to make everything as meta as possible. So he references PWG, and cites a real-life Bucks interview, and gets the crowd to chant "Cody" for some reason. In AEW, it doesn't matter if your mic work makes sense or not, so long as you're making wrestling nerds like me do the Captain America "I understood that reference" meme and feeling for a few fleeting seconds like maybe we didn't completely waste our lives following this ridiculous industry. Because that's what's important.

Written by Miles Schneiderman

Rocked: Matt Taven silences the haters (AEW Dynamite)

For the better part of the decade, Matt Taven has been a punchline to many, the member of The Kingdom that didn't make it, the midcarder who inexplicably won the Ring of Honor World Championship at Madison Square Garden. It's a perception that's continued to stick with Taven, even as he fell back down the ROH card, reformed The Kingdom with partner Mike Bennett, and found himself working in TNA and AEW. It followed him everywhere.


Except for one place: Mexico. Beginning in 2016, after coming back from injury, Taven began a four-year stint with CMLL, where he won titles, lost his hair, and main-evented the promotion's biggest show, the CMLL Aniversario, in 2018. It was there that the Taven many in America couldn't see, or appreciate, burned the brightest he ever had.

It was that Taven that showed up following "AEW Dynamite" Wednesday night, when he cut a post-show promo following his defeat at the hands of Orange Cassidy in a Texas Death Match. Frankly, that Taven showed in the match itself, brawling with Cassidy the way he did with Rush in Arena Mexico all those years ago, soaring through the air and through a table in what could become the most iconic moment of his career. But it was also on full display in this promo, when Taven — surrounded by Bennett and fellow Undisputed Kingdom matters Roderick Strong, Wardlow, and Adam Cole — really let loose the way that only happens after a performance like the one he just had with Cassidy.


It wasn't just the performance. As Taven stood there and launched into his tirade against all that doubted him, it became less of a promo and more of a cleansing, a man finally letting the shackles off and basking in a victory lap. Sure, he found time to remind everyone of the Undisputed Kingdom's mission, and mocked Cassidy for falling into their trap, as they continue to soften him up for Roderick Strong at AEW Revolution. But that couldn't overshadow the image of a performer finally given the moment, and the stage, to tell his haters to shove it.

Some say that wrestling is all about making the most of the minutes you're given. As Matt Taven stood there, bloody, defiant, and triumphant, even in defeat, he burned as bright as he did in Arena Mexico, and reminded everyone that perception isn't always reality.

Written by Eric Mutter