WWE

WWE Draft (not-so) live blog

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The 2016 WWE Draft felt like the most important show the company has put on in recent memory, so it seemed like the perfect time to bust out the ol’ running blog shtick and recap everything that happened on the first Tuesday edition of SmackDown Live as it happened, or at least when I watched it on DVR.

– The show kicked off right away with Daniel Bryan’s music as he and Shane McMahon made their way out from the back. Stephanie and Mick Foley were already standing behind the Raw podium. Foley counters Bryan’s yes chant by getting a cheap pop of his own.

Stephanie cutting off Foley and announcing the first pick was a smart way to start tension between the two.

1st Round

Raw: Seth Rollins

SmackDown: Dean Ambrose

Raw: Charlotte

SmackDown: AJ Styles

Raw: Finn Balor

Instant reaction: Stunned Balor would go before Brock, Reigns, Cena, Orton and the New Day. It’s a great way to establish “The Demon” as one of the future top stars of Raw, especially with the tag team that was drafted to Raw later in the night. I was also a bit surprised that Charlotte went this high, but it’s great for the women’s division. Rollins, Ambrose and Styles placement all made logical sense.

Cool guy Shane makes sure to drop the “crossfit Jesus” nickname for Rollins, but he stumbled on the line, which allowed Stephanie to get in one of her patented cheap shots.

– How many shirts does Shane sweat through in a day? Over/under is 4.5. I’m going over.

John Cena vs. Luke Gallows

– Enzo and Cass come out to join Cena. Normal shtick by Enzo, Cass tells The Club they are SAWFT.

– Gallows dominated all of the action during the commercial break in the small screen, which was a neat idea that I hope the WWE continues to use. IndyCar, F1 and NASCAR use a similar concept during their commercial breaks because the action doesn’t stop. The transition back from break was a hell of a lot smoother than it usually is.

-The Club, Enzo and Big Cass stood on the apron and then got in the ring. Styles and Anderson ran at Enzo and Cass, but were dumped to the outside. Cena hit the FU and pinned Gallows.

– You can always tell where a guy is on the roster by the amount of FUs he kicks out of during a match.

2nd Round

Raw: Roman Reigns

SmackDown: John Cena

Raw: Brock Lesnar

SmackDown: Randy Orton

Raw: The New Day

Instant reaction: Oh no, this means we’re totally getting an Orton- Cena feud again aren’t we? Even though they’ll square off again at some point, I will say it’s nice to have the possibility of some Cena-Orton vs. American Alpha tag matches down the road. Those would be very beneficial for Jordan and Gable. Don’t forget, Cena-Orton have some really good in-ring chemistry as tag partners.

A WrestleMania 31 rematch between Rollins-Lesnar-Reigns is going to be pretty damn fun. Lesnar was apparently sloted to be drafted in the first set of picks, but after news of the second failed test was reported on Tuesday, he was dropped down to the eighth overall pick. When Roman returns at Battleground, he’s going to get booed back to Pensacola.

Darren Young & Zack Ryder vs. The Miz & Rusev

– Lawler on Young and Backlund: “It’s the bland leading the bland.” #DamnJerry

– Love the live ticker. Not only does it add to the presentation of the show, but it’s also an easy opportunity to sell ad space.

– “We want Backlund” chants from the crowd, SmackDown is so much better live.

– After Rusev and Ryder were taken out of the equation, Backlund instructed Young to apply the Crossface Chicken Wing, which is exactly what he did. The Miz taps out.

– The crowd popped huge for the Crossface Chicken Wing, but the fact this spot was given away on SmackDown should tell you Mr. No Days Off ain’t winning the title on Sunday.

Xavier Woods vs. Bray Wyatt

– This new version of Bray’s Uranage (rock bottom type move) looks vicious.

– I really like the direction Bray Wyatt is heading in. The way he connected his crab walk into the Sister Abigail needs to be done way more often. It looked incredibly smooth.

– Xavier Woods has also really improved. Even though his knee to the head of Bray wasn’t good, his offense as a whole has looked much better lately. Woods’ reaction to seeing Bray after doing a front flip was A+.

Kane vs. Kevin Owens

– Big pop for K.O. who immediately bitches about not being drafted yet when he walks out from the back.

The match never starts because Sami Zayn attacks Owens on the ramp. The two fight into the ring and Owens catches Zayn with a superkick. Owens then feeds Zayn to Kane and orders him to chokeslam Zayn, but instead Kane grabs Owens and hits a double chokeslam.

Serious

3rd Round

Raw: Sami Zayn

SmackDown: Bray Wyatt

Raw: Sasha Banks

SmackDown: Becky Lynch

Raw: Chris Jericho

Instant reaction: I agree with Lawler, why did Stephanie pick Zayn after he was just laid out by Kane? Him and Owens look like total geeks here. It’s a smart decision to split Sasha and Becky; Lynch makes perfect sense on SmackDown. Even though we know Bryan didn’t actually make that pick, if this was a shoot, it would be totally believable for him to take the Lass Kicker. Bray Wyatt has the opportunity to be a main event player on SmackDown.

Top Superstars available graphic is another good idea. Big Show somehow made the list. Good call Easy Ed.

Charlotte & Dana Brooke vs. Sasha Banks

 HOLY SH!T what a clothesline by Dana to Sasha.

– Charlotte tags in as Sasha hits the Banks’ Statement to Dana, hits the Natural Selection and pins Sasha.

– So Nia Jax is going to be Sasha’s surprise partner on Sunday right?

4th Round

Raw: Rusev w. Lana

SmackDown: The Miz w. Maryse

Raw: Kevin Owens

SmackDown: Baron Corbin

Raw: Enzo & Big Cass

Instant reaction: Really surprised that Zayn and Owens ended up on the same show, Battleground felt like the right time for their feud to end for the time being. It’s ridiculous that Owens went this low. It really shows what the company thinks of him right now. Cole called Corbin a future WWE champion, expect him to get a big push right away. With the IC and U.S. champions going to opposite shows, it’s pretty safe to assume that both will retain on Sunday.   

– Certified GM line by Foley was actually funny, but damn does Stephanie have to say the catch phrase for every person that’s drafted to Raw? I get it, she’s a heel and should be acting this way, but it’s so effing annoying to hear her say something after every pick. This isn’t something new, she always feels the need to say someone’s catch phrase whenever they start to gain some steam.

Chris Jericho vs. Cesaro

– Y2J with a top-rope frankensteiner!

– Mauro’s call of Cesaro’s uppercut party sequence is just the best.

– Felt like both of these guys were going through the motions and looked tired. The pace was a bit slow, which is typical for at 2016 Jericho match, but the finishing sequence was great. Cesaro went for a spinning springboard uppercut off of the second rope and Jericho countered it into a Codebreaker for the win.

– “DON’T SCREW ME,” Jericho to the ref after getting the win.

– When we come back from break, Becky Lynch and Natalya are being separated on the outside of the ring by numerous officials.

5th Round

Raw – Gallows and Anderson

What

SmackDown – American Alpha

Raw – Big Show

SmackDown – Dolph Ziggler

Raw – Nia Jax

Instant reaction: Pour one out for The Club. It feels way too soon to break up Styles-Anderson-Gallows. They were just starting to hit their stride on the mic, but the Balor Club on Raw is a nice consolation prize. The pop for American Alpha was unexpected. People are going to complain about Nia Jax, but she’ll be fine if she doesn’t get overexposed in the ring.   

Great idea from The Roommate: “They should have had cameras in the Performance Center to get the reaction of the NXT guys that get drafted.

– Turns out they had the entire NXT roster gathered for a viewing party at the PC, but for some stupid reason, it wasn’t shown during the broadcast:

Fun fact: Tom Phillips is listed at 6’0.” Seth Rollins is listed at 6’1.” When Phillips interviewed Rollins, Seth looked like he was about 6’5.”

6th round

Raw: Neville

Smackdown: Natalya

Raw: Cesaro

SmackDown: Alberto Del Rio

Raw: Sheamus

Instant reaction: The best of the rest. I’m looking forward to Alberto Del Rio on SmackDown. He still has another main event run in him. With the return of the cruiserweight division on Raw, Neville was a logical choice here. Cesaro going this low is a joke and he should have been on SmackDown, which he mentioned later on during one of the most honest promos you’ll ever see.

Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose

Ambrose back-body drops Rollins into the timekeeper’s area.

Weak superkick by Rollins, almost totally whiffed.

After a big clothesline by Ambrose out of the corner, the action really picks up. Seth counters Dean’s elbow from the top rope with a bucklebomb. Ambrose gets out of the way before the frog splash and gets a great near fall with a cradle.

– Rollins pokes Ambrose in the eye and goes for the pedigree. Ambrose back-body drops him over the top rope. Suicide dive by Ambrose. Elbow off of the top to Rollins. This is getting really good; already better than their match on Raw.

– Ambrose goes up to the top rope again. Rollins runs up and hits a superplex off of the top to Amrbose. He goes for the Falcon Arrow, but Ambrose counters into the Dirty Deeds for the win. Great finish, the crowd popped huge for the pin.

– Shane and Bryan come down to celebrate with Ambrose. Mike Cole and Coach II run down the main matches at Battleground and we go off of the air with a hard sell to the Network where 30 more picks are going to be made.

Overall I thought the show was disappointing. The pacing of the draft segments felt a bit quick and it felt like Shane, Bryan, Foley and Stephanie were reading off of a spoiler list. I was shocked at the lack of backstage reactions to the picks. Even though the rosters were predetermined, most of the talent had no idea where they were going to be drafted, which means we would have seen genuine reactions.

Even though the wrestling was pretty good tonight, I thought there was a bit too much of it. I was surprised at the lack of promo time for guys after they were picked. It’s one of the few times that I wish a show would have been three hours…

Idiot

Raw easily “won” this draft. The roster for WWE’s flagship show is incredibly deep and there is something for everyone (Rollins-Reigns, Brock, deep mid-card, perhaps too deep, Charlotte, The New Day, cruisierweight division). The main even scene on SmackDown is pretty solid (Cena-Styles-Ambrose-Orton-Wyatt) and American Alpha is going to make an immediate impact, but it definitely seems like the company was scared about driving viewers exclusively to Tuesday nights, so they decided to beef up the three hour monster on Mondays.

Twitter: @ScottDargis

Some tidbits from the after show on the Network

– Man Cesaro really let it all out in that promo. He was justifiably ticked at the decision creative made and vented in a way that felt incredibly refreshing.

– Corey Graves wonders if The Club has just expanded. Hmm…..

– I’m surprised at the amount of cursing on the Network.

– Booker T on fans booing Roman Reigns: “They hate him.”

– I’m beginning to really like the Backlund/Young paring.

– Why is Mojo JoJo interrupting Bob Backlund?

– Thought Graves had excellent analysis about Apollo Crews. “He got lost in the shuffle a bit with guys like Enzo and Cass.”

– Funny backstage bit with The Social Outcasts. Bo Dallas was drafted to Raw by himself, but Axel and Slater thought they were on Raw as well. Axel ended up being picked by Raw, but Slater is a free agent.

– Alexa Bliss, Mojo Rawley and Carmella are coming to the main roster on the SmackDown brand. The Hype Bros. are here baby.

– The two new commentary teams are:

Raw: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Byron Saxton

SmackDown: Mauro Ranallo, JBL, David Otunga

– Mauro is going to have his work cut out for him. Hopefully JBL kicks it up a notch, because he’s been awful lately.

– And now you’re number one contender for the worst promo of the year:

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