WWE

Raw Recap: The road to Money in the Bank concludes with a pair of “Chef Currys”

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The four week build to Money in the Bank is officially over and apparently we’re getting Wrestlemania 33 this weekend!

Mike Cole, JBL and Byron “Coach” Saxton have been promoting MITB as a PPV that’s equivalent to the company’s biggest show of the year and there’s a good chance that the show this Sunday in Las Vegas will be a better show than the six plus hour mess that took place in Dallas.

Just look at these top four matches:

Money in the Bank ladder match: Chris Jericho, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Cesaro, Alberto Del Rio, Dean Ambrose.

WWE world title match: Roman Reigns (C) vs. Seth Rollins

The “Wrestlemania” worthy dream match: AJ Styles vs. John Cena

Fatal 4-Way tag team title match: The New Day (C) vs. The Vaudevillians vs. Enzo and Big Cass vs. Gallows and Anderson

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But sadly like most things said by the Raw commentary team every week, this point has been driven into the ground.

We get it. We’re lucky to be getting these matches in June, but what about the fact that this is going to be the last WWE Network special before the brand extension and draft?

It’s a key point that has been barely discussed on WWE programming that hasn’t been discussed outside of the cringe worthy segments between Shane and Stephanie.

Would it have been so bad to have Reigns or Rollins drop a line about wanting to lead either Raw or Smackdown into the future as the champion?

Same goes for the tag titles.

Why couldn’t Styles tell Cena that he was going to beat the best and prove why he should be the first overall pick?

What about the MITB bank winner? Can he show up on either show and create chaos whenever he wants?

I’m not complaining about the excellent card that’s going to be presented on Sunday, but there’s a huge event that’s going to change the direction of the entire company in a month that needs to be addressed on television outside of comedy skits with former authority figures.

In fairness, Corporate Glenn was hilarious on Monday night. the talent needs to get his brand extension over, so plant some seeds now that blossom when the draft takes place (Heavily rumored for July 18th).

Now it’s time to review the “go home” episode of Raw from New Orleans.

Let’s have a talk

Since Wrestlemania 32, the amount of wrestling time on Raw was much higher than it was during The Authority’s run, but this episode of Raw was full of one segment matches, which meant extended promo time for quite a few guys.

And you know what; it was actually pretty good.

The show opened with The New Day ripping on the new “Chef Curry” shoes that Kofi was wearing.

In case you haven’t been paying attention to the world of NBA or sneakers; a new pair of Stephen Curry’s shoes released last week and they were absolutely crushed on social media:

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Even though New Day go off on random tangents that maybe 10-15% of the crowd knows about, it’s awesome because it’s relevant to what’s happening in the actual world and not the WWE Universe.

When Enzo and Cass interrupted New Day things things got weird. Cass insinuated that Enzo spent the night with Francesca 2 and did some things that are too explicit for me to write about on this website.

Listening to this very odd exchange got me thinking, I wonder how much of this opening bit between the two teams was scripted. The New Day appear to have the blessing of Vince to go out there and talk about whatever they want during their allotted time and Enzo is obviously coming up with his own material.

It was strange to hear dialog like this on the PG version of Raw, which is probably why the crowd got really into this bit.

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If you were to take Dean Ambrose out of the Ambrose Asylum segment at the top of the second hour, it would have been the best 15 minutes on the show.

All week the WWE has been promoting the three members of The Shield being back together in the ring, but man this was just not a time for Ambrose to keep on with his bad late night talk show host gimmick, especially when Rollins cuts a wonderful promo about not needing anyone but himself to win back the title and Roman actually delivers a solid comeback line.

Rollins came off like a major tweener here (somewhere Randy Orton is jealous). His speech about not needing anyone to get the title and eventually get it back just oozed babyface and the crowd responded appropriately. The roster is very thin on heels at the moment, but the crowd desperately wants to cheer for Rollins, so creative needs to be careful about what Rollins is going to say if he’s going to continue to bring passion like this on the stick.

But seriously though, Ambrose almost killed this segment and not in a good way.

His line at the end about winning the briefcase and potentially cashing it in after the title match was solid, but it felt like he just kept getting in the way of Rollins and Reigns and stopped the natural momentum they were building in the ring. We didn’t need a narrator here to further the conversation.

The physicality to end the segment did come across very well and it was nice to see Ambrose foreshadow what could happen on Sunday by hitting a Dirty Deeds to Reigns.

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AJ Styles and John Cena had themselves a contract segment for their “WrestleMania-worthy dream match”, but this time two contracts were on the table. One read John Cena vs. AJ Styles and the other read John Cena vs. AJ Styles (w/ The Club).

Cena “baited” Styles into signing the contract without The Club’s help all because Cena wanted to give the fans a fair fight that is 15-years in the making.

Cena also made sure to get as many bullet jokes in as he possibly could. Apparently he’s going to send Styles “back on a bullet train to Japan” after he beats him on Sunday.

Styles has been using Cena’s catchphrases throughout this feud and his last line about Cena’s time being up and his time being now was solid as was his line about “not just being some other indy guy.”

Even though The Club isn’t supposed to show up on Sunday, you know they’ll interfere at some point, the question is, will we see a fourth member join the group on Sunday?

Zayn and Cesaro get cut short

Sami Zayn and Cesaro’s battles in NXT are legendary, so when the two faced off on Raw, we were all in for a treat, but like most snacks, it left you wanting more.

It felt like Zayn and Cesaro were just kicking it into fourth gear when all of a sudden Sami hit a sunset flip Code Red and pinned Cesaro clean in the middle.

(Fast Forward to 1:50)

The move is simply incredible to watch, but man, if Cesaro would have kicked out the crowd would have been hotter than the Chef Currys.

OK I’m done.

Hopefully these two spin off into a program coming out of MITB, which is totally possible considering the heelish way Cesaro treated Zayn during their backstage interview.

Match results

Gallows, Anderson & The Vaudevillains beat The New Day and Enzo & Big Cass after The Club hit the Magic Killer on Kofi Kingston and pinned him clean.

Paige defeated Charlotte with the Rampage after Dana Brooke tossed Charlotte back into the ring…

Sheamus defeated Zack Ryder clean in two minutes. #Poorbroski

Alberto Del Rio and Kevin Owens beat Lucha Dragons after Owens hit Sin Cara with the pop-up powerbomb. ADR and KO kept their spot in the MITB match with the win.

Dean Ambrose pinned Chris Jericho clean in the middle after hitting the Dirty Deeds.

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Time to “go home”

Why did Charlotte need to eat a pin to Paige? Why not reverse roles and have Dana Brooke take the fall after Charlotte throws her back into the ring? The backstage promo afterwards between Dana and Charlotte would have still made perfect sense if it would have been booked this way.

– Crazy Rusev is the best kind of Rusev:

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– When Glenn presented Shane with a letter of recommendation from The Undertaker, I actually laughed out loud.

– I would imagine Sheamus said something to Ryder about the Broski boot that caught Sheamus right in the head.

– Jericho finally got the briefcase, you know this means he isn’t winning on Sunday.

– Cesaro should become the next ring announcer of Smackdown.

– Kudos to Xavier Woods for the deep cut Mean Street Posse reference.

– Who will wrestle next: Darren Young or the Shining Stars?

– New Orleans has an underrated wrestling crowd.

– Kevin Owens on commentary = gold, Jerry, gold.

– Ambrose and Jericho actually had a pretty good match to close the show.

– Shame that the actual main event segment just doesn’t mean anything anymore.

– Del Rio has been booked pretty strong lately, so don’t be surprised if he walks out with the briefcase on Sunday. Owens deserves to win MITB and would benefit the most, but it feels like we could be in for a swerve.

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