Ambrose
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:

Kurt Angle to be inducted into WWE Hall of Fame

ORANGE, CA - MAY 08:  Wrestler Kurt Angle arrives at the Lions Gate Premiere of "See No Evil" at the Century Stadium Promenade 25 on May 8, 2006 in Orange, California.  (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
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Oh it’s true, it’s true.

WWE announced today that Kurt Angle will be going into their Hall of Fame on March 31st at the Amway Center in Orlando as part of WrestleMania week.

The 1996 Olympic gold medalist is a five-time WWE world champion and regarded as one of the best in-ring talents to ever grace the squared circle. Angle last appeared in a WWE ring way back in August of 2006.

In a press release, WWE’s Executive Vice President Paul “HHH” Levesque said, “Kurt Angle’s accomplishments both in the Olympics and WWE were extraordinary. He was one of the most gifted athletes to ever enter the ring, and we are honored to welcome him into the WWE Hall of Fame.”

WrestleMania 33 will be held Sunday, April 2nd from the Orlando Citrus Bowl live on WWE Network.

WWE Weekly Recap: 2017 Royal Rumble Odds

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For the first time in many years, the favorite to win the Royal Rumble isn’t obvious. In fact, this feels like one of the more unpredictable Rumble matches in WWE history.

Five guys who would be considered a favorite to win the match (Seth Rollins, The Undertaker, Braun Strowman, Goldberg and Brock Lesnar) are rumored to have their WrestleMania programs locked in and none are scheduled to be for either of the company’s main championships.

Instead of being a device that’s used to give an established star a main event spot at Mania, the Rumble might actually be used as a launching pad for a future world champion.

trampoline

With that in mind, here’s how I would rank the field:

Baron Corbin 6/1 (+600)

The odds may surprise you, but Corbin has been booked very strong ever since his better-than-expected chairs match with Kalisto at the TLC Pay-Per-View. He was given a lot of offense in the triple threat match for the WWE title on the “Wild Card Finals” episode of SmackDown and “controlled” 80 percent of his match against John Cena this past Tuesday.

Corbin is ascending into the world title picture and it’s totally logical to picture “The Lone Wolf” ending the first PPV of WrestleMania season by pointing at the giant WM sign.

With Goldberg-Lesnar, Undertaker-Strowman, and HHH-Rollins penciled in for Mania, Corbin vs. Styles, Cena or both, is a perfectly fine match (with entrances) to fill 20-25 minutes of the show. Corbin has shown enough in the ring lately for me to buy that he’s ready for a high level match.

Finn Balor 8/1 (+800)

If either Owens or Reigns walk out of the Universal Championship match in San Antonio with the red strap, Balor has a built-in story with either guy.

Balor beat Reigns clean in the middle of the ring during his first night on Raw and after the match Roman said he would love another crack at Balor.

Owens was handed the championship by Triple H, but HHH also has a connection with Balor that could easily be worked up with one or two backstage interactions if creative wanted to go that route.

If not, Balor and Owens could hearken back to their feud in NXT, which produced a set of extremely good matches in the Summer of 2015. Their NXT title match at “Beast in the East” was one of my favorites that year and 30 percent of that was thanks to the streamers that were thrown at the end of Balor’s entrance.

jim

No matter who Balor works with, he’s going to put on a great performance and if WWE wants to have a NJPW style match at Mania, the Demon King would be the perfect person to insert into it.

Samoa Joe or Shinsuke Nakamura 9/1 (+900)

A debuting superstar has never won the Royal Rumble, but if there was ever a time to do it, this is it.

Joe is the more likely option out of the two, considering that he just dropped the NXT title to Nakamura and failed to beat him in the rematch, but if Nakamura loses the title to Bobby Roode at Takeover: San Antonio (unlikely, but you never know), he instantly becomes a favorite.

If either guy won, it would make sense for them to face Styles for the world title at the company’s biggest show of the year. Joe is one of Styles’ best friends in the business. They’ve made magic in the ring together and understand how to put on a clinic in front of a massive crowd.

Nakamura wrestled Styles in the second to last match at Wrestle Kingdom 10, which is New Japan Pro Wrestling’s version of WrestleMania. It was predictably awesome and if you haven’t seen it yet, set aside a half hour and watch it:

Chris Jericho 10/1 (+1000)

As much as I want to see Team Chris and Kevin face off for the Universal title in Orlando. I just don’t think it’s going to happen. If Owens does somehow hold onto the title at the Alamodome, Jericho would instantly become one of the three favorites to win the Rumble.

Owens and Jericho are the hottest act on the company’s flagship show. Roman Reigns may get a bigger reaction in some cities, but he’s still not ready to be a main event promo, which is exactly what Y2KO have been since September, which is why I’m still holding out hope that this match will be for the title.

If Chris and Kevin are going to feud with each other, someone is going to have to turn and it makes sense for K.O. to beat the crap out of Y2J.

Imagine the verbal jabs between a heel Owens and a sympathetic babyface version Jericho who keeps the same character tone, but plays into the cheers.

wow

Now imagine Reigns cutting a 5-10 minute promo about defending the title.

cena

Randy Orton/Bray Wyatt 12/1 (+1200)

It’s easy to see a scenario in which Orton and Wyatt square off at Mania, but what if creative actually has long-term plans for the group?

If Wyatt or Orton were to win the Rumble and wrestle for the world title at WrestleMania, it could set up a title program between the two for the May-July period.

The Miz 14/1 (+1400)

Even though he’s currently in a feud with Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Title, Miz has been one of the best acts on SmackDown since the draft and deserves a main event run.

He and AJ teased a feud during a Miz TV segment a few weeks back, but I think the pair should be saved for a SmackDown exclusive PPV later on in the year.

Miz will eventually climb up the card, but sadly, he’s going to be left out of a high profile match at WrestleMania.

John Cena, Roman Reigns, AJ Styles, Kevin Owens 17/1 (+1700)

I’m expecting the losers of both title matches to enter the Rumble later on in the night. If I had to rank the four in terms of most likely winners I’d go: Styles, Cena, Reigns, Owens. It would be an interesting swerve to the Cena-Styles storyline if Cena won the title from AJ earlier in the night and then Styles responded by winning the rumble.

Owens is likely locked for a Mania match with Jericho and it would be a major letdown if Reigns won the most unpredictable Rumble in years.

Sami Zayn 25/1 (+2500)

If the Owens-Zayn storyline had any heat left, Zayn would be a logical choice. It would be a genuinely shocking moment and Zayn could use a boost after doing the job for Strowman.

With Owens likely taking on Jericho at Mania and Zayn’s current placement on the card, I don’t expect the taxi driver to make any real impact in the Rumble.

Rusev 25/1 (+2500)

The Bulgarian George Clooney deserves a featured spot in WrestleMania season because he’s one of the most entertaining full-time performers on the roster, but there are only so many spots to go around.

rusev

Big Cass 25/1 (+2500)

I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if Big Cass ends up as one of the “Final Four” participants in the Rumble match. Either that or he’s going to have a spot midway through where he runs through a couple dudes before going out quickly.

Any member of The New Day 28/1 (+2800)

Big E is the only legitimate option here. This would be an ideal moment to begin the inevitable breakup between the three, but it needs to be a slow burn.

Dean Ambrose 40/1 (+4000)

He’s headed for another multi-man match for the IC title at WrestleMania.

Seth Rollins 50/1 (+5000)

Rollins is obviously penciled in to face Triple H in Orlando, so there’s no need for him to be near the title picture until after Mania.

Braun Strowman 50/1 (+5000)

He’s most likely facing The Undertaker. While it may seem like Strowman isn’t ready for the level of a match, if the company is serious about pushing him, he needs to be in this spot.

The split rosters have created a need for new stars, which means a clean win for Strowman over the Undertaker could be in the cards.

The Undertaker 50/1 (+5000)

As noted above, Taker most likely has a date with Adam from Tinder at Mania.

Yes, I know I used that line last week, but why not bring it back for round two?

Goldberg and Brock Lesnar 50/1 (+5000)

I’d love to see Brock and Goldberg “draw” the first two numbers and beat the hell out of guys until Braun Strowman eventually comes out.

Kane 70/1 (+7000)

Kane has shockingly been protected since the draft, so don’t be surprised if he has a strong showing in the Rumble. Who knows, maybe he makes it all of the way to the “Final Four.”

Shelton Benjamin 75/1 (+7500)

Benjamin was scheduled to return to the SmackDown brand after the draft, but needed surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. He had a six-month recovery time frame and the Rumble falls perfectly in line with his rehab, so don’t be surprised if “ain’t no stoppin me now” blares over the speakers in San Antonio.

American Alpha 75/1 (+7500)

Enjoy the SmackDown tag team titles. Jordan has a chance to win this in a few years.

Apollo Crews 100/1 (+10000)

He should still be in NXT.

Any cruiserweight 100/1 (+10000)

Nope.

Dolph Ziggler 100/1 (+10000)

The guy’s gimmick is that he loses, so there’s no way he’s going to win.

James Ellsworth 1000/1 (+100000)

Any man with two fists has a chance to be eliminated.

Holy Schnikes moment of the week:

Take it away Becky Lynch.

If you don’t know what see you next Tuesday means, Google it.

Time to “Go Home”

– Stephanie was harder to listen to than Otunga this week. Was it necessary for her to talk down to Sasha and Bayley like that? As a fan, how am I supposed to cheer either of the babyfaces if they don’t have a snarky retort ready to counter Steph’s heelish lines.

– So Nia Jax pins Bayley essentially clean in the middle of the ring just two weeks before Bayley faces Charlotte for the women’s title. Makes sense.

– Has anyone else noticed that Karl Anderson’s pants say #BC on them? I find it a bit strange that no one backstage has said anything to him about this.

– Everything about Neville’s heel turn is great, including the variety of moves he’s displaying in the ring. This week he worked a mat wrestling/submission style that resulted in him using the Rings of Saturn to get the victory over Lince Dorado.

– I like the fire Rich Swann showed when he attacked Neville after the match.

– I thought Natalya and Nikki Bella had an excellent brawl on SmackDown. Nattie caught Nikki with a kick right to the face.

So Seth Rollins is supposedly getting new music after all. Once I heard this version by Downstrait, I got bummed out every time I heard Rollins’ actual music:

– Please WWE, no more Big Cass vs. Jinder Mahal matches.

– I like that Ziggler’s heel turn accelerated this week. The worst thing for his character would have been to come out this week and apologize for his actions. Instead, he beat the crap out of Kalisto after their match and then waffled Apollo Crews with a chair when AC came out to help his “friend” Kalisto.

– This was American Alpha’s best showing since their call-up to the main roster. Gable used his hot tag effectively and Jordan had a very nice amateur wrestling sequence with Bray to begin the match.

– I LOVED Cena’s backstage promo this week. It felt a bit like a Doctor of Thuganomics promo, just all grown up.

The Twitter Machine: @ScottDargis