WWE

WWE Raw Recap: Roman Reigns’ time is up and Dean Ambrose’s time is now

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If you like wrestling, the last two days have been pretty freaking exciting.

First we had Money in the Bank, which was an incredibly eventful show:

– Dean Ambrose not only won the MITB briefcase, but he also cashed in to win the WWE title from…

– Seth Rollins! Who became the first man to pin Roman Reigns clean in almost four years.

– AJ Styles pinned John Cena.

– Natty turned heel!

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– But more importantly this happened:

After Kevin Love finished his celebration, the official word on the 2016 WWE Draft dropped.

The draft will take place Tuesday, July 19th on a live edition of Smackdown, which is just five days before the Battleground PPV.

So with the draft just four weeks away, there isn’t much time to conclude programs, which is why the fast forward button was pressed at MITB and on this week’s episode of Monday Night Raw.

Farley

Straight cash in homie

Even though some of the best in the business believed that he was going to be the next great star, Dean Ambrose’s momentum had been halted to a point that it was seriously time to consider if he would ever be given the ball.

He didn’t get an opportunity to shine against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania.

He drifted from the main event as AJ Styles faced Roman Reigns.

He feuded with Chris Jericho about potted plants and interview segments.

The Asylum match happened….

He entered the MITB match as just another guy, certainly not the guy.

And then out of nowhere he gets a rocket push and leaves WrestleMania 33 Money in the Bank with the title!

Now Ambrose could very easily lose the belt in a month at Battleground, but at least he was given the opportunity to have a lasting moment, even if it doesn’t make any sense after the questionable booking he’s been through over the last three months and the way #SuperRoman has been kicking out of finishers.

Even if you don’t like the fact that Ambrose is the champion, you should be happy that Vince and Co. actually did something that was completely unexpected. I personally thought Reigns was going to surpass CM Punk’s 434-day title reign and set the record for the modern era. I mean this is Vince’s pet project we’re talking about here. He was so dead set on getting Reigns over that he returned to television in order to help the process.

Maybe the reported house show numbers (the shows headlined by Roman were drawing the same amount as the shows that were headlined by Dean) were the final straw, or perhaps the Powers that Be believe that Reigns can grow more as a character if he’s chasing the title.

Whatever the case, it’s nice to have someone as the champion who doesn’t seem unbeatable. If Ambrose can carry the title through the Battleground show, there are plenty of combinations that will feel fresh again and there are brand new opponents for him to feud with.

With the roster being split up into two distinct brands, it makes sense to have a triple threat match involving all three members of The Shield before they get broken up. The crowd in Washington D.C. is going to POP when the bell rings for the main event on July 24th because this actually has the feel of an era ending match.

Just drink in the unpredictability man…

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#FightForever

Another program that has been affected by the fast forward button Vince hit on his VHS player is Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn.

Way back in May, Owens picked up a clean win over Zayn at the Payback PPV, but Zayn leveled the score with a surprisingly clean win over KO on Monday. The two then battled after the match and had to be separated by Fit Finley and Road Dogg.

The more Kevin Owens is on our screen, the better off we are as a society, so it was nice to see him and Zayn get some extra TV time to help their program, but it sure feels like this is getting rushed so the two can go their separate ways after the draft and PPV.

It’s probably the right move because if upper management is serious about keeping both shows separate, the feud between Zayn-Owens will be able to quietly gain steam even if they’re not on the same program. They can drop lines about how the other person is doing here and there and when they actually get in the ring to face each other, it’ll really mean something.

For now let’s just focus on the present. It looks like we’re getting a rubber match between the two at Battleground and it’s going to be an excellent match, but I’m hoping there’s a no DQ stipulation attached so these two can brawl around the arena.

OwensZayn

Get the shovels ready

Let me do what JBL failed to do on Sunday. AJ STYLES BEAT JOHN CENA IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RING. It wasn’t clean, but who cares, it’s still a pin over Cena.

JBL made sure to tell everyone that he was disappointed that The Club interfered and helped Styles beat Cena, even though that’s what heels are supposed to do.

Duh

Thankfully Styles made his win over Cena feel important on Raw. I’m not sure when Styles became so confident on the microphone, but holy cow he’s improved. A LOT. He’s oozing confidence as a heel, so much so that Cena actually got a “Let’s go Cena” chant last night that wasn’t followed by “Cena sucks.”

Cena got a one-on-one match with Karl Anderson on Monday, and “Machine Gun” got in zero offense. He seriously didn’t get a punch or a kick in on Cena on camera because by the time we got back from commercial break, the match was almost over.

The Club’s beat down of Cena got a nice reaction, but almost everyone in the crowd knows that Cena is going to run through Anderson and Gallows before facing Styles at Battleground.

Hopefully I’m wrong and they actually book Cena in a storyline where he struggles to defeat the members of The Club, which would lead the announcers to wonder if Cena can actually hang in this “new era,” but it’s doubtful.

For some reason, Cena still has to be protected in situations where it would be better if he was vulnerable. Hopefully the unpredictability continues and Styles pins Cena again at BG, but the smell of a #SuperCena run is like rain, you just know when it’s coming.

Match Results

Sami Zayn defeats Kevin Owens clean

Enzo and Big Cass squash The Vaudevillians

John Cena defeats Karl Anderson by DQ

Baron Corbin pinned Zack Ryder clean in the middle

Charlotte successfully defends WWE women’s title vs. Paige after help from Dana Brooke

Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins’ number one contender match ends in double countout

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Let’s go home

Another feud that’s getting squeezed in before the draft: Wyatt’s vs. New Day. Boy was it weird to hear Bray Wyatt play up to the crowd like a straight babyface. Curious to see where this goes.

– Also this Wyatt family vignette was just plain creepy.

– Every time I see John Laurinaitis, I hear Living Colour.

Scott Dawson speaks the truth:

– Seriously though, that’s a ridiculous chant for the crowd to spew at Roman. He shouldn’t be associated the Eva Marie. Surely the crowd can come up with something better than this.

– Stop what you’re doing and watch this Kevin Owens promo from after MITB:

– I know Dana Brooke is still new to the business, but you can’t blow a key spot in a title match. That was also a poor job by the referee to not cover up the mistake by immediately throwing Dana out instead of pointing at Charlotte’s foot under the rope.

– Even Styles was jealous of the forearm Sasha Banks hit Dana with on her walk to the ring.

– Question: Why was Konnor in the commercial for the WWE Draft???

– Titus O’Neil’s promo to Rusev about disrespecting his family was fantastic and Rusev’s line about not caring about Titus’ family was well delivered. There is some fire to this feud that other mid-card feuds just don’t have.

– Kudos to Ambrose for making the most out of his time on commentary during the main event. His rant before the match started was wonderful.

– I don’t want to bash the commentary team, but Mike Cole has been really bad lately about calling moves incorrectly. His latest gaffe came at the end of Raw when he got the Pedigree and Dirty Deeds mixed up.

– When Rollins told Amrbose that “he showed something” last night, it made me flashback to this segment between Amrbose and Stephanie. Perhaps this was just a throwaway segment, but maybe there is more to this little bit between these two.

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