At NXT Takeover: The End, an impressive new tag team made a name for themselves, attacking the highly popular American Alpha. Flanked by legendary manager Paul Ellering, the Authors of Pain were shrouded in mystery, with little details emerging about these two destroyers. Eventually, some information slipped out regarding the identity of the Authors of Pain.
In addition to Sunny Dhinsa, a Canadian amateur wrestler with Punjabi roots, the team featured Gzim Selmani, a former MMA fighter of Kosovo-Albanian descent. Selmani holds a 4-2 record in MMA, having fought in the Bellator promotion on his final fight.
Like many people of Kosovo-Albanian descent from Selmani’s generation, Selmani would grow up away from his homeland, in the Netherlands, after his family were displaced by the conflict in Kosovo around the time. Another famous example of this can be found in the Swiss International Football team, with players such as Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka holding a similar heritage.
In terms of wrestling, Albania and Kosovo have zero wrestling tradition. Under Communist rule, Albania was effectively on lockdown, with the borders closed and information about the outside world being suppressed by the government. A 1990 LA Times article by Barry Stavro shows the extent to which Albanians were shielded from Western culture, as a grown man is heartbroken by the revelation that Hulk Hogan’s exploits in the WWF were in fact scripted in advance.
Selmani is the first wrestler of Albanian stock to make it to the WWE. Having studied Albania and the Balkans at University, I hold a great affinity for Albania, Kosovo and it’s cultural heritage. I was able to show my support for the recent European Championships which saw Albania participate in a major football tournament for the first ever time, doing the country proud in the process. I am very interested in the progress of Selmani and whether he can succeed in the WWE system. As a result, I will be reviewing Selmani and the Authors of Pain’s matches in NXT. Can Selmani break through?
The Authors of Pain vs. Mike Cuellari/Casey Maron
NXT – Full Sail University – Orlando, Florida – 15th of June 2016
Back in the days of Communist rule in Albania, dictator Enver Hoxha enacted an isolationist policy, cutting relations with the West, the Soviet Union, the rest of the Warsaw Pact, Yugoslavia and the People’s Republic of China, criticising their “revisionist” view of Socialism and accusing them of becoming too soft. These strained relations led to a lot of paranoia on the part of Hoxha, who insisted on the construction of hundreds of thousands of concrete bunkers throughout the country.
These Qender Zjarri bunkers (or QZ bunkers) littered the landscape, on beaches, mountains, rural towns and even on the lawn of Albania’s most prestigeous hotel. The bunkers ranged in size from one-person pillboxes with gun slits to massive underground fallout shelters for use by the political elite in case of a nuclear attack. The bunkers were made of concrete, steel and iron and were so sturdy that they remain a fixture of moden-day Albania as people have resorted to trying to blow them up (with various degrees of success) for scrap metal.
Regardless of these bunkers’ ability to withstand attack, it is nothing compared to the structural integrity of Gzim Selmani, who is fucking NAILS. This is what I love most in wrestling. just watching two spheres in vests maul some poor jobbers. Cagematch sees to have the names of these two carcasses listed as CJ O’ Doyle and Sean Swag, but the Network lists them as Mike Cuellari and Casey Maron. I have no idea what is correct though because none of the four competitors are referred to by name. At one point, Gzim Selmani grabs the illegal man and biels him into the ring, landing square on the face of the legal man. In the end, they murder one of these revisionist scumbags with a clothesline and Russian leg sweep combo for the 1-2-3.
The Authors of Pain vs. American Alpha
NXT – Full Sail University – Orlando, Florida – 20th of July 2016
Our Hero Gzim must now face the capitalist decadence of American Alpha, in a match that harkens back to those great Cold War Olympic battles for political superiority such as the Miracle on Ice. The Authors have previous with AA, as of course it was them that the Authors attacked on their debut appearance in NXT. The Authors jump American Alpha before the match, laying waste to them on the ramp. Paul Ellering looks like Mr. Burns doing the “Eeeeexcellent” pose as a concerned William Regal comes out to assess the situation, but American Alpha, imbibed with the spirit of Coca Cola, democracy and freedom of speech, demand the match still take place as they rush to the ring.
This is a full-out war from the beginning as all four men just go to town on each other before AA cleared the ring. American Alpha are nothing short of incredible to watch, a 21st century reboot of the Steiner Brothers pre-roids. This is a straight throwback to early WCW Steiner matches against the likes of Doom and the Miracle Violence Connection, but with even more highflying. The early going sees the Authors work over Gable with double team moves, cutting the ring in half. However, when Jordan got the hot tag, he ran rampant, dropping the straps and throwing the Authors around with suplexes, which only got a one count for Alpha. Gable would then join in the fun, throwing Sunny around with an overhead suplex for another one count.
The match soon descended into chaos as all four men brawled. Gable grabbed an ankle lock on Sunny. Gzim manages to grab hold of Sunny and pull him to the ropes, only got Jordan to hit an incredible dive over the top rope onto Gzim on the floor. Gable tries to go for a baseball slide, but Sunny grabs and throws him into the LED board. Jordan tries to make the save, but he eats the steps instead. Inside the ring, the Authors end the match with their combination clothesline/Russian leg sweep finisher to get the big win over American Alpha.
This, for me, was the perfect match for this situation. The Authors of Pain are still a bit raw, but American Alpha managed to bump around like champs to make the Authors look deadly. Also, American Alpha were able to use that old Steiner formula and modernise it to give this match a frenetic pace that felt like the match could spiral out of control at any point, whilst ensuring the Authors’ limitations were hidden. This is absolute proof that the idea that everyone needs “to get more time” to get over is nonsense because this match clocks in at six minutes and thirty-four second match that made everyone look great and was everything it needed to be. Fantastic match.
The Authors of Pain vs. Rob Ryzin/Adrian Nails
NXT – Full Sail University – Orlando, Florida – 10th of August 2016
I would like to start off by mentioning that Adrian Nails is the greatest name for a Jobber that I have ever seen. Kudos to whoever thought that one up. Good god, we are at prime jobber here as Nails is wearing skeleton gloves. These ham and eggers are so green, their autobiography was written by Doctor Seuss. The Authors go straight to work, hitting Nails with some elbows before booting him back to his corner and forcing Ryzin to tag in. Ryzin is immediately crushed as the Authors run him down like a bus before making a tag with both men crushing Ryzin in the corner.
The Authors then grab both of their opponents and hit them with stereo powerbombs where they smash their opponents backfirst into each other first of all before planting them. The completely unnecessary leg sweep/lariat combination follows as they pick up the win. I have seen episodes of Taggart where the murder victims looked less mangled than these two guys. This transcended being a squash match and actually became a piece of bleak, brutalist art. Paul Ellering looks positively demonic with his red suit jacket and bald head, slow clapping the destruction. TM-61 did a run-in to try and help out Nails and Ryzin but of course, they got fucking MULLERED as well by the Authors.
The Authors of Pain vs. TM-61
NXT – Barclays Center – Orlando, Florida – 24th of August 2016
This was the customary taped dark match from NXT Takeover: Brooklyn II as the Authors get the chance to teach TM-61 a lesson after attempting to jump them a few weeks before. A brawl erupts before the bell rings, with TM-61 using their speed to avoid the Authors and eventually knock them to the floor. TM-61 then take out both Authors with lovely dives from the ring as this match hasn’t even started. Tension erupts in the Authors as they bicker about losing face, with Ellering being forced to step in, calm them down and tell them to stick to “the plan”. Hopefully this plan is a bit more successful than the ill-fated Third Five Year Plan (1961-5), which relied heavily on the import and export of goods to fellow Warsaw Pact nations as well as the arrival of industrial equipmentand spare parts from the Soviet Union, who would cut ties when Hoxha refused to attend the important Warsaw Pact conference of 1961.
The match starts with Shane Thorne being worked over before he turns the tide with a one-man poetry in motion. However, Gzim grabs Thorne and slides him along the apron like a bar table in a brawl, throwing him shoulder first into the ring post. There follows a period of dominance from AOP, who work over Thorne in the corner. We are also informed that the Authors of Pain now have onscreen names, with Gzim Selmani being referred to as “Razar” and Sunny Dhinsa is known as “Akam”. Thorn manages to make the tag to Mick Miller who slaps the shit out of Razar’s face, prompting a wincing reaction from the crowd. Miller knocks Akam off the apron and then hits a crossbody for two as the commentary are stunned that the Authors were involved in a nearfall.
Thorne gets the tag again as TM-61 hit back-to-back corner elbows, before hitting a version of the Total Elimination finisher from ECW, but with their arms. Thorne then gets smack through the ropes as the Authors seize the momentum again, hitting TM-61 with their now signature double powerbomb into each other, before splitting them on the canvas. Miller is then left to fend for himself as the Authors hit their dreaded lariat/Russian leg sweep killshot to win the match. This was a very enjoyable match.
The Authors of Pain are being booked spectacularly well, with their strengths being accentuated and their weaknesses being hidden. I also feel that limiting their matches to six/seven minutes and pairing them with talented workers like American Alpha and TM-61 is allowing NXT to get most out of this pairing. The next edition of Zëri i Dhimbjes will see us focusing on the Authors’ quest for success in the Dusty Rhodes Classic as they take on the Bollywood Boys in the first round.