Five Hot Takes From The Week In Wrestling: What We Wish Had Happened & More (3/7/2024)

It's time for Tony's title reign

With all the main roster call-ups over the past few months, from Bron Breakker to The Creed Brothers to Tyler Bate to Pretty Deadly to Ivy Nile and others, it feels like "NXT" is naturally moving into a new era. With this new era should come a new "NXT" Champion, and what better time to crown a new one than at "NXT" Stand & Deliver next month?


Don't get it mistaken, Ilja Dragunov has had a fantastic reign as "NXT" Champion and has done a great job holding the title. He's one of the best in-ring wrestlers out there and has built up tons of momentum over the past few weeks. With that being said, it seems like the perfect time to bring him up to either "Raw" or "SmackDown" and have him compete in dream matches with top stars or renew some old rivalries.

While there are many choices for people who could potentially dethrone Dragunov, Tony D'Angleo stands out above the rest. He's one of the hottest stars in "NXT" right now and has grown both in popularity and as a performer over the past year. He would make for a fantastic titleholder and could easily be the face of the brand.


Written by Olivia Quinlan

The new Dynamite look is not good — bad, even

"AEW Dynamite" got a new look on Wednesday, and the results were bad. Looking like a cross between a gaming computer and a laser tag arena, there's something cheap and juvenile about the new set that feels like a big step backward for AEW. What's worse the new graphics packages look like generic assets from the WWE 2K creation suite and the cutting between cameras has gotten jarringly chaotic. All in all, AEW is becoming a WWE-like product, mostly in the worst ways possible.


AEW has run into a problem that NXT ran into a couple years back, an unwillingness to commit to a primary color for the show's branding has left them with the entire spectrum muddying up the graphics on the screen. Much like NXT 2.0 before it, this week's "Dynamite" was an assault on the eyes and the chaotic cutting and camera motions left me nauseous. While the company has not picked up all of the bad habits of the Kevin Dunn reign of terror, they are on a worrying path, one that will make them feel too much like the competition.

A while back Burger King introduced a version of the Big Mac that simply...wasn't the Big Mac. It was called the Big King and everything about it was wrong, it didn't taste like a Big Mac, but it also didn't taste like Burger King. It tasted like a bad imitation of both. That's the new look of "AEW Dynamite," it's definitely not WWE, but it sure didn't feel like AEW, and that uncanny valley is a terrible place to be.


Written by Ross Berman

Claudio Castagnoli is a tag team wrestler (and that's a good thing)

One of my favorite parts of AEW Revolution was watching Jon Moxley and Claudio Castagnoli come out dressed like the Road Warriors. In retrospect, their subsequent victory over FTR should have been obvious from that point on — this was about establishing Mox and Claudio as a regular AEW tag team, a team that should be considered a very real threat to win the upcoming tournament for the vacant AEW tag titles. Why not associate themselves with one of the most fearsome tag teams in history? As Moxley and Castagnoli stood above their fallen opponents while commentary put over the fact that they had entered the tag team ranks with a bang, it hit me — Claudio is officially part of another tag team. And I think it's probably about time to accept the truth: Claudio Castagnoli is a tag team wrestler.


Now, when I say that, I don't mean it as an insult. Tag team wrestling is, in my opinion, the best kind of wrestling, and tag team wrestlers tend to be significantly more interesting than most singles wrestlers. But I'm guessing many people are still bristling at the notion of Claudio continuing to be "stuck" in the tag team division, a common complaint among the fandom during his time as Cesaro in WWE, when he had no fewer than four notable tag team partners — Jack Swagger, Tyson Kidd, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Sheamus. At that time, there was a widespread notion that continuously putting him in tag teams was a disservice to Claudio, who surely deserved a run at the top of the card, as world champion. The opportunity for a main event singles run was one of the most intriguing things about Claudio signing with AEW, and indeed, it wasn't long before Tony Khan made him Ring of Honor World Champion, back when that title still meant something on its own.


Claudio was certainly a capable champion, but the run wasn't terribly memorable — it was most interesting when Claudio briefly lost the title to Chris Jericho before regaining it, after which Khan, who had been aggressively pushing ROH on AEW programming, seemingly backed off. The majority of Claudio's second reign took place on "ROH on HonorClub," and at this point I think it's safe to say that it lasted about six months too long, and Claudio should have dropped the title to Eddie Kingston (the current champion) back in April 2023 at Supercard of Honor. Now it's about six months after that title loss, and Claudio is still looking for his first taste of proper AEW gold.

In other words, beyond the ROH title run, not even Tony Khan wants to give Claudio a main event spot, or even a run with a singles midcard title. This is a company whose major singles champions are currently Kingston, Roderick Strong, and Samoa Joe, all of whom are Claudio's contemporaries and came up beside him in ROH, along with the 50-year-old Christian Cage. And yet, once again, there's Claudio, stuck in the tag team division.

And honestly, good. He should be. He's a tag team wrestler. He's always been a tag team wrestler, from his days teaming with Ares on the European independent scene to his time in CHIKARA, where he first teamed with Chris Hero to form the legendary Kings of Wrestling, who were two-time Ring of Honor Tag Team Champions. In WWE, Claudio won tag team gold six times with three different partners (but mostly with Sheamus as The Bar). In contrast, his singles title runs in any sort of major promotion (and even most minor promotions) are limited to a single reign as WWE United States Champion and those two ROH world title reigns. That's it.


He's a tag team wrestler, and he's one of the best in history. There's no shame in that. But it is about time for some fans to stop fighting the idea and start cheering for yet another amazing tag team run from Claudio, with Moxley by his side.

Written by Miles Schneiderman

There's room for more women at WrestleMania

On paper, Bayley vs. IYO SKY for the WWE Women's Championship is a compelling match, but why not sweeten the deal a little more — maybe with a Kiwi twist?

Following her win in the 2024 Women's Royal Rumble, Bayley made the stunning decision to challenge her fellow Damage CTRL stablemate, IYO SKY, at WrestleMania 40, citing SKY's budding disdain for her as a key motivator for their now imminent face-off.


"Sometimes it's not all about having a championship or holding a title," Bayley said on the February 2 episode of "WWE SmackDown." "Sometimes, it's more personal. Sometimes it comes down to what's in your heart, and proving people wrong, about proving doubters wrong that didn't think you had what it took to go all the way. And sometimes, the people that you thought were your biggest support system, the people you thought were your friends, sometimes you have to prove them wrong."

As Bayley proclaimed, sometimes actions are motivated by the emotions felt in one's heart. And in the case of Dakota Kai, she's repeatedly felt like a sidekick.

No longer wanting to linger in the shadows of her tag team partners, Kai has mercilessly backstabbed the likes of Tegan Nox, Raquel Rodriguez, and most recently, Bayley. Upon her latest betrayal of Bayley, Kai reacquainted herself with the remaining members of Damage CTRL — IYO SKY, Kairi Sane, and Asuka. As Kai's track record has shown, though, not everything may be as it seems. In fact, this could, realistically, be another ploy to elevate her position on the card, specifically the WrestleMania card.


As of 2024, Kai has yet to wrestle for a championship at WrestleMania. And given that she has now been on the WWE's roster for seven years (and has an extensive history with both Bayley and SKY), WrestleMania 40 seems like the ideal, and frankly most believable, stage to change that — by elevating the Women's Championship match to a triple threat.

Written by Ella Jay

There's more room for women at WrestleMania, Part the Second

While a match between Rhea Ripley and Becky Lynch sounds amazing on paper, the way that WWE has handled their match has been sort of disappointing. Their heavy investment into Ripley and Lynch interactions all but confirmed that Lynch would win the Elimination Chamber and become the Number One Contender weeks before the match even happened, and the feud between Ripley and Lynch has been unfortunately forgettable.


You know what's not forgettable? The revival of Lynch and Liv Morgan's tensions, with Nia Jax thrown into the mix.

Morgan and Lynch have gone back and forth in the classic face/heel dynamic back during Lynch's "Big Time Becks" gimmick, but this time around, both women are among the company's top babyfaces. After Lynch interrupted Morgan's match with Jax on the February 26 edition of "WWE Raw", Morgan enacted swift revenge by interrupting Lynch's match with Jax on last week's episode of "Raw". Both matches ended in disqualifications, much to the ire of both Morgan and Lynch. The lack of resolution with their matches have caused both women to turn on each other, and they have a match set for the March 11 episode of "Raw" in order to settle their differences.


Already, Lynch and Morgan's current feud has been more memorable than Lynch and Ripley's. You can empathize with Morgan's initial frustrations at Lynch interrupting her match (Morgan telling Lynch that "not everything has to be about [her]" has been occupying my brainspace rent-free). You can also see how Lynch needed to put Jax away in order to focus on WrestleMania, and because Morgan thwarted her attempt to do so, Lynch has legitimate reason to be directly upset at Morgan. This is a rare case in which both parties have valid concerns, but those same concerns contest one another. This is so much more interesting than their previous face/heel feud, and even more interesting than whatever routine procedure Lynch and Ripley are doing right now.

That's all Morgan and Lynch's drama, but I would be remiss to write this and not discuss Morgan's motivation for going after Ripley. After teaming at WrestleMania 38 in a losing effort to claim the WWE Women's Tag Team Championships, Ripley and Morgan (previously known as "Liv 4 Brutality") imploded on the April 18, 2022 episode of "Raw". The two women clashed multiple times afterwards as part of a feud between The Judgement Day and AJ Styles, Finn Balor, and Morgan. During this time, Morgan established herself as the last person to beat Ripley, to date. Morgan and Ripley's paths crossed again in the 2023 Women's Royal Rumble match, where they were the first two entrants, and the final two in the ring. Ripley eliminated Morgan to claim her Royal Rumble victory and secure her spot at WrestleMania 39.


If you're wondering how I was able to recall, in detail, a years-long feud between Ripley and Morgan, it's because WWE uploaded an hour-long collection of their tag team formation and implosion. They have at least an hour's worth — probably more — of in-ring time together alone. If you didn't think that Morgan and Ripley had history, there's your proof.

Given that Morgan has current tension with Lynch and years' worth of unresolved bitterness with Ripley, there is good reason to put Morgan in the match for the WWE Women's World Championship. It would be a near-perfect union between the short-term storytelling that WWE is used to, and the long-term storytelling that many wrestling fans celebrate.

Jax is the odd one out in this feud. While I don't think that her inclusion in the match would offer as much resolution as Morgan's, I do think that she has improved significantly in the ring and on the mic — enough so that her presence would be an added benefit instead of a detriment. Fatal Fourways are infinitely more difficult to pull off than Triple Threats, but with enough time allocated to them, I think that Ripley, Lynch, Jax, and Morgan can pull off an entertaining build to WrestleMania, and an even more entertaining match.


Would making this match a multi-woman affair be the fairest thing for Lynch? No, but you've also been watching The Bloodline artificially extend Roman Reigns' championship reign for the past few years. I think a bit of unfairness is okay in this situation, with the anticipated payoff being as big as it is.

Written by Angeline Phu