WWE

Raw Recap: Seth Rollins steals the show and he wasn’t even in the building

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While the road to Money in the Bank took a three hour pit stop in Oklahoma City on Monday night, a much more important WWE news item dropped on Saturday night.

For those who chose not to click the link; Brock Lesnar will make his return to the octagon, against Mark Hunt, at UFC 200 on July 9th in a one-off appearance. It’s shocking that Vince McMahon would agree to let his second highest paid performer ($6 million per year according to Forbes) return to the cage just six weeks before WWE’s second biggest Pay-Per-View of the year, but that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

Does this mean that Ronda Rousey or Conor McGregor will appear at WrestleMania 33? Rousey appeared at WrestleMania 31 and got physical with HHH, which means a match between “Rowdy” Ronda and Stephanie McMahon would be a logical idea for next year’s extravaganza in Orlando.

McGregor could step in right now and be the best promo in the entire company. Just imagine him going back and forth with John Cena for 10 minutes on the mic.

The WWE would receive incredible publicity if either set foot in the squared circle, which is the goal here.

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Now on with the recap:

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Creative had two episodes of Raw to save the Seth Rollins-Roman Reigns title feud before their match at Money in the Bank and they took a big step forward on Monday. Even though Rollins and Reigns didn’t appear in front of the live crowd, a pair of wonderful video packages aired that instantly made their fight in Las Vegas seem like it was the most important match on the show.

It was a very smart decision to chop up the footage from the excellent WWE 24 episode about Rollins’ rehab and splice it with a killer promo. This is how Rollins needs to be booked going forward. He doesn’t need to be the cowardly heel, he needs to be a focused heel that continues to try and put together plans that eventually lead to his success.

Speaking of going forward, can we get some more packages like this for Roman as opposed to him being sent to the wolves in the audience. He came off like a top guy here, except for the line about Rollins making Pop Tarts.

#TalkOwensTalk

From the opening minute of Monday it was apparent that Kevin Owens was determined to make the most out of every opportunity he had to speak. He chirped during the entire first segment and his delivery during  a backstage segment with Ambrose was fantastic.

Owens has seemed much more comfortable on the microphone over the past few months. Before any jabroni gets out of shape let me be clear, he walked into the Performance Center in 2014 as one of the best talkers in the world of professional wrestling, but up until the build for Wrestlemania, Owens hadn’t been given the opportunity to show just how good he could be with a microphone in his hand.

Now he’s getting an abundance of time to get his personality over, which is a clear sign of confidence from the Powers that Be. Even though he lost clean in the middle to Ambrose on Monday, Owens is in a great spot heading into a key stretch of the year for the company.

Mr. TNA vs. Mr. WWE

“Guys like you bury guys like me”

-AJ Styles

Despite John Cena essentially running through The Club at the end of the show, you knew it was coming, Styles and Cena had a nice back and forth verbal exchange.

Even though Cena is once again playing the role of Mr. WWE against the current Internet darling, which has happened basically every summer since the “Summer of Punk” angle, it feels fresh this time because he’s been gone for months and he’s facing a dream opponent in Styles.

AJ’s delivery about guys like him getting buried by Cena was very good and got a nice reaction from the crowd, who is always chomping at the bit for insider terms like that to get dropped.

It was a smart move to let these two blur the line between a work and a shoot. Hopefully next week, that line gets even harder to see.

Teddy Long returns and makes a tag team title match for MITB

Now wait a second playa. It’s time for a Teddy Long dancing gif,

Wait we don’t have the space for a Teddy Long gif?

Sorry Teddy.

It was great to see Mr. Tag Team make a surprise appearance, even though his tag team match between Breezango and the Golden Truth didn’t come to fruition.

He did pitch a Fatal 4-Way tag team title match to Stephanie that will take place at Money in the Bank. Enzo & Big Cass vs. The Vaudevillians vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson vs. The New Day. This could be the way to get the titles off of the New Day without any of the three members eating a pin.

On what’s shaping up to be a stacked card, this match could steal the show, but one thing is for sure, either Simon Gotch or Aiden English is going down for a 3-count.

3-Count

Match results:

Cesaro made Chris Jericho tap out with the sharpshooter(!!)

Rusev defeated Jack Swagger by count-out after throwing him into Titus O’Neil who was on commentary.

The Vaudevillains defeated Enzo and Big Cass by disqualification after Cass snapped.

Alberto Del Rio pinned Sami Zayn CLEAN IN THE MIDDLE after the double foot stomp in the corner.

Dean Ambrose beat Kevin Owens clean with the Dirty Deeds.

R-Truth beat Tyler Breeze by DQ

The Club (this name is really sticking around, I can’t believe it) defeated The New Day in a three-on-two handicap match.

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Time to “go home”

Really enjoyed the Muhammad Ali tribute. Nice history lesson for those who didn’t know where he got his persona from.

– Enzo spit some fire during his Ali influenced promo.

– JBL is getting out of control with the sports references.

Nice hometown pop for Jack Swagger, but it’s time for him to get a new T-shirt. I seriously would like to meet someone who has actually purchased this shirt.

– Zayn losing clean to Del Rio was a bit strange. I didn’t mind Alberto going over, but why not have him get to a point where he realizes “maybe I can’t beat this new guy” and resorts to cheating?

– Becky Lynch’s hair was INSANE

– WWE should hand out a Five Hour Energy to everyone in the audience before the third hour of the show.

– Why do the Vaudevillains deserve to be in the tag title match at MITB? They lost clean to The New Day in six minutes at Extreme Rules. Get to the back of the line bros.

– Are the Shining Stars ever going to wrestle again?

– Season 2 of Mr. Robot is going to be epic.

– Tyler Breeze and Fandango might actually have something as they’re pretty funny together, but I don’t need to see Breeze shaving Fandango’s back ever again.

Sext

Twitter: @ScottDargis

WWE: Let’s analyze that odd LaVar Ball segment from Raw

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We finally got to see what LaVar Ball’s gigantic personality would look and sound like in a professional wrestling ring and it was … something. The phrase train wreck comes to mind, but I’m not sure that accurately describes what took place at the Staples Center.

You see, professional wrestling isn’t easy. Whether it’s with worked punches or words, you have to be able to bounce off of the other person you’re in the ring with and that’s something Ball proved he could not do despite being in the ring with one of WWE’s best talkers.

Here’s the full segment:

Now there’s a lot to unpack here, but I’m going to do my best.

Let’s start with LaVar’s entrance. He’s being accompanied by his youngest son LaMelo, who will play a much bigger role later on, but for now, let’s just focus on how LaVar “runs” to the ring.

LaVar is immediately booed by a majority of the crowd, but as soon as he mentions the Lakers and Lonzo Ball, the crowd roars with approval.

Lonzo gets his own entrance, as he should, but for some reason he’s rocking a sock-sandle combo that doesn’t translate well to WWE programming.

The Miz is a true pro and proved it after he gave Lonzo the opportunity to speak to the Staples Center crowd for the first time. Ball’s eldest son is a very quiet person, so he was understandably brief, but Miz wasn’t going to let this moment pass. He hyped up Lonzo and the crowd did respond positively.

After the Miz declared that he and LaVar should be business partners (I want a triple Bs and M shirt), the segment began to crumble. When LaVar told Miz that he wasn’t on the same level as himself, the Staples Center immediately began to cheer The Miz as a babyface who fired up and asked LaVar and Lonzo how many championships they’ve won.

After Lonzo said three, Miz delivered the line of the segment:

“Did UCLA win this year?”

Here are LaVar’s next set of lines:

“Now we know what The Miz stands for! Misinterpreted Zone” (Which doesn’t make sense it’s only two words.)

“Or it stands for A Million Zippers!” (That’s even worse!)

When Miz refers to LaVar’s comments about how he would beat Michael Jordan one-on-one, the crowd has had enough of Ball. He got booed louder than Roman Reigns, which is an achievement.

Ball’s retort: “Like I said before, there’s only two dudes better than me and I’m both of them!”

Miz then refers to himself as the Michael Jordan of WWE (……) and then LaVar tells LaMelo to “handle his lightweight.”

Miz responds with another great line: “Oh what you’re going to unleash all of the balls on me?”

When Miz tells LaVar he wants him to backup his mouth, Ball responds with his signature catchphrase “stay in yo lane,” which is just mind-numbing if you know where the phrase originated.

(Yes LaMelo wore a “Stay in yo lane” shirt that LaVar’s brand is selling.)

When the Miz gets “serious” and says “or what LaVar,” Ball responds “or the hunt is on and you’re the prey.” But instead of delivering it in a serious tone, Ball has a huge grin on his face and is about to start cracking up.

I can’t even describe what happened next:

Then Dean Ambrose’s music hits and then the segment somehow managed to get even weirder.

As Ambrose walked out onto the stage, LaMelo suddenly realized he had a live microphone with the opportunity to say whatever he wanted and this happened (NSFW, NSFW):

I would pay 10 dollars to see what Vince McMahon’s reaction was backstage. If you know anything about how strict Vince is with segments, you know that he had to be absolutely fuming and what happened next probably made him break something.

After Ambrose stops smiling because he heard what LaMelo said and begins his promo, Ball CUTS HIM OFF. But what LaVar didn’t realize was, he actually stopped Ambrose right as he was about to talk up Big Baller Brand for giving him a free shirt.

However, because Ambrose does this for a living he was able to get through his promo and the segment quickly ended after that.

We’ve seen LaVar Ball cut promo after promo leading up to and during the 2017 NBA Draft, but when he was placed in world of pro wrestling, we found out that he was out of his league.

Twitter: @ScottDargis

WWE: One-on-One with Daniel Bryan

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Before Daniel Bryan makes his return to SmackDown Live this Tuesday night at 8 p.m. ET on USA, I had the chance to chat with him about #DadLife, why WWE needs to change how they’re presenting their stars, the independent guys who have the best chance of making it and the one guy he’d love to wrestle in New Japan Pro Wrestling.

Hey Daniel, so everyone who I told about this interview wanted me to wish you a happy Father’s Day …

“Oh, well thank you!”

… So let’s start there. Is there one word that you can use to describe how yesterday felt?

“Gosh … I suppose just blessed? I feel like I live a very blessed life right now.”

Has there been anything in the month since your daughter has been born that has caught you off guard, or have you been pretty much prepared for everything that’s come?

“I mean I don’t think you can ever be fully prepared for parenthood when your first child comes. I mean, maybe some people can. I had never changed a diaper before our baby was born [laughs]. I’m really learning on the job you know?

I thought I was the world’s most patient man. Brie sometimes gets frustrated with my patience [laughs], but what I’ve realized through having a child is, man I really need to work on my patience. I’d be changing a diaper and I have a real aversion to poop and pee, so I’m slow in doing just about everything. I take it off, I clean her and I’m like OK I’m doing really good. Then she pees and I’m like oh no, now I have to clean her again. Then she starts pooping again and now I have poop all over me. So now I start to get frustrated [laughs].

You have to constantly work on yourself and understand the things that you need to get better at.”

And this is the stage where all they do is poop or pee, just wait until she starts moving around.

“[Laughs] It was really hard for me because every time I would hold her or interact with her, in the first few weeks especially, she was crying. She was either sleeping, which was awesome because I would be holding her and she looked so peaceful and happy, but when she was awake, she looks at me and the only thing she wants from me is to change her diaper, but when I’m changing her diaper, she’s very unhappy. When I’m changing her clothes, she’s very unhappy and the only time she stops being unhappy is when I hand her to Brie and Brie starts feeding her [laughs]. When do I get to do the stuff that makes her happy!?”

Switching gears a bit, now that you’ve been in the role of SmackDown GM for almost a year, how would you assess your performance on-screen?

“Um … I don’t know. I would say a solid B-plus [laughs]. I always feel like there’s things that I can do better. I always strive to be the best that I can in any given role that I’m given. I always think that I can do better on things like Talking Smack and when I’m doing interviews and that sort of thing. How do we best make our fans excited for SmackDown Live? What is the best things that we can do to help the fans relate to the superstars?

We’ve had our hits and our misses, but I’d like to think over the last year that we’ve had more hits than misses.”

It seems like it didn’t take you long to get comfortable in the role. Was it easy to pick it up and run with it?

“Yeah … it’s just a natural extension of wrestling in the WWE. If you would have had me do this when I started with WWE seven years ago, I would have been horrible at it. But during my time with WWE I got more and more talking experience and now all I do is talk, so I’ve been able to get more comfortable with it.”

Scale of 1-10, how much fun is it to let loose on Talking Smack?

“I don’t really view it in a scale of 1-10. Sometimes when I’m talking about things that I know I shouldn’t be talking about [laughs] it raises those parts in your brain that excites you and makes you happy. For example, when I refer to James Ellsworth as “The Big Hog” I don’t think anyone really appreciates that other than me and some of the viewers. It makes me chuckle.

I consider a 10 as the happiest or the most fun that I have. A 10 would be doing something really fun with my wife and daughter. Just yesterday we went to a place to eat and Birdie was cooing and smiling and Brie and I were having a great time. That’s just the best. Talking Smack on its best day can get to like a six or a seven. Once you have this idea of where your true happiness lies, it changes your perspective.”

So as I got ready for this year’s Money in the Bank I went back and watched some of the older shows and the level of talent that is on the entire roster now in comparison to five to seven years ago is pretty astounding, but I feel like the product as a whole in its current state is very stale. What tweaks do you think need to be made in order to give the WWE a spark of excitement?

“I think a change of presentation is absolutely necessary. I think the way that we present our superstars probably needs to change. Years ago, [WWE] went through with this idea of having as much live stuff as possible on the shows, but I think when you watch say UFC for example, some of the things that are the most endearing, that make you care the most about the fighters are these backstage vignettes that show their real personality. You’ll see great fights that people will cheer maybe because they’re great fights, but the fights that have the most impact are the ones with fighters who people actually care about.

I think one of the things that really endeared me to people was that people got to view more aspects of my personality than most because of the different things that I did within WWE. Seeing performers frustrated and being able to show that on TV and being able to show their experiences, their reactions to what’s happening to them on the show and doing backstage vignettes. There was a great one on NXT about Roderick Strong recently about being a new dad and all of that kind of stuff.

Since I’ve been gone, they’ve been doing some really fun stuff with the Fashion Police. Not that there needs to be more of that exact kind of stuff, but it helps people get to know their personalities.

I think one of our failings on SmackDown Live was American Alpha. They’re great and on NXT they did all of these fun little interview segments with the two of them that got to show the people behind American Alpha. (They saw) who Chad Gable is, who Jason Jordan is. I’d like to do more of that kind of stuff.

In combat sports, personalities are what draw. Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao was one of the worst boxing matches I’ve ever seen, but millions of people watched it because of the personalities involved.

I think changing that dynamic and highlighting the personalities is something we really need to do. Now, I don’t know how we do it. I think if anybody has a magic answer of what the best way is to present personalities in this modern day of television, they’d make millions of dollars, so I may not have the answer.”

Time for the speed round

Best WWE match you’ve seen this year?

“Oh gosh that’s hard … so I was watching the NXT Takeover from Chicago and I really loved the Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne match. That’s my style of wrestling. Pete Dunne working over the wrists and manipulating finger joints is kind of attention to detail I really enjoy.

It’s hard because we get so many matches all of the time that are awesome. I really liked the AJ Styles-John Cena match from the Royal Rumble. Watching AJ Styles on a weekly basis is a constant pleasure.”

Best non-WWE match you’ve seen this year?

“There was a Minoru Suzuki-Kazuchika Okada match from New Japan (Pro Wrestling) that was my style of wrestling. Forty minutes, lots of submission stuff, it was really cool. I think a lot of modern fans in the United States would have a hard time with it, especially if you’re used to WWE style, but I really enjoyed it.

Even though the matches are totally different I would put it right there in terms of match quality with Will Ospreay-KUSHIDA match from the Best of the Super Juniors final.

“So that was really good. I really enjoy KUSHIDA’s work. He’s one of the guys that I would love to have a chance to wrestle because he does so many awesome technical things.”

Who is the one “indie” guy who has the best chance of becoming a star in WWE?

“It’s hard to define any of these guys as ‘indie’ guys anymore because they all have contracts [laughs].

I have really enjoyed watching Matt Riddle. I think he has a ton of personality and a ton of charisma and he’s got that look that WWE really likes and the has history in UFC. I think if he were to get an opportunity in WWE, he would do really well.

I also think Kenny Omega if he were given an opportunity would absolutely kill it.”

Coolest move you’ve ever seen?

“So I define cool as different than most people [laughs]. My favorite thing in wrestling that I’ve tried to do a million times and can’t do it, is when Jerry Lawler punches somebody in the face. It’s the best! He does it better than just about anybody. He punches dudes right in the nose and I don’t know how he does it without breaking them. It’s magic!

How you view wrestling evolves as you become a bigger fan. When I was in high school, I saw Juventud Guerrera do a 450 splash and I was like that’s the greatest thing I’ve ever seen! And then now it’s like watching Jerry Lawler punching someone in the face is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Is there one bump* you wish you could take off of your bump card? 

“There’s not a specific one. I feel like there wasn’t one big bump that caused any of my major problems. My neck problems came from years of wrestling a very hard style and my concussion stuff came from, hey I have a lot of concussions [laughs].

I think the one … actually I will say one. OK, in 2000 I did this ladder match and at this point I’d been wrestling for about six months. There was a 12-foot ladder and I jumped off of the top of the ladder that was in the ring and did a flip dive onto a guy that was on the floor, but I didn’t realize that I needed someone to hold the ladder, so the guy tried to catch me, but I just fell shoulder first onto my right shoulder and I’ve had right shoulder problems off and on since then. I also got a concussion in that match as well, so that match might have been the start of shoulder problems, which would then lead to other issues. If I could take that one away I would.

I honestly did a lot of stuff because for my size you have to do different stuff to get recognized. It’s different for someone like Randy Orton. When you’re tall and you’re good looking and your dad is a former WWE superstar, it’s a lot easier to get in the door. When you’re five-foot eight, don’t have really any natural charisma and you look like a normal guy who works out at the gym, you have to do some things to get noticed.”

*A bump is when a wrestler takes a move or does a big … dive, during a match.

Twitter: @ScottDargis