WWE

WWE Weekly Recap: The “new era” of Raw and SmackDown begins

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Battleground feels like it took place about five years ago doesn’t it?

Sure, there were some excellent moments on Sunday’s Pay-Per-View: Bayley’s debut, a Match of the Year candidate from Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, Bob Backlund vs. his shirt, an incredible promo from Enzo and a triple threat title match with the former members of The Shield, but Monday’s Raw and Tuesday’s SmackDown were more important shows because we finally got to see the post-draft changes that have been rumored for months.

Well there is a leader in the clubhouse after week one and second place isn’t close at all. Raw was easily the superior show.

Some angry person just said out loud “well of course you stupid idiot, just look at the rosters.” Yes, the balance of talent is unfairly tilted towards Raw, but it was the new presentation elements that really made the show feel fresh.

Fresh

The opening shot of Mike Cole, Corey Graves and Coach II at the new announce position (on the left hand side of the stage) set the tone for the night. There were new camera shots (Balor’s entrance looked beautiful as well as the overhead shot that was used before the second Fatal-Four Way), live interviews before and after matches, a new set that looked like the SummerSlam set from 2012/13, a new graphics package, fresh matchups and the return of squash matches!

From the short opening promo from Stephanie and Foley to the final three-count, Monday’s Raw was paced incredibly well. Not every week is going to be this smooth, but there’s so much talent on the roster that there really shouldn’t be any down time, unless The New Day’s promos continue to run too long.

I didn’t get the same feeling of excitement when the entire SmackDown locker room was standing on the ring apron during Shane and Daniel Bryan’s opening promo. The lack of talent on the roster was quickly exposed after the first five names were announced for the six-pack challenge later in the night.

After AJ Styles, John Cena, Bray Wyatt, Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin walked to the back, the rest of the roster stayed in the ring for a battle royal to determine the final participant in the main event. The cat’s reaction below is an accurate depiction of my reaction when the battle royal started.

Cat

The final four participants battle royal were: Mr. Lucha Thing, Zack Ryder (without his Sting ’92 gear), Apollo Crews and Kane…

It became quickly apparent that SmackDown needs one or two more mid to upper-mid card guys. While it’s nice to have Shelton Benjamin back in the fold, Kevin Owens and Cesaro would be a perfect fit for Tuesday nights.

The roster wasn’t the only problem though. The new camera shots Shane McMahon “promised” on television turned out to be the old camera angle that was used for the original version of NXT. I found the “new” set to be very underwhelming and the commentary team of Mauro, JBL and Otunga is a major work in progress.

There are kinks that have to be worked out, but if SmackDown doesn’t improve quickly, fans may gravitate towards Raw and pick and choose what they watch from SmackDown.Let’s face it, watching another two hour show after seven hours of combined content on Sunday and Monday is a daunting task.

Morgan

The Arrival

Six hundred and thirty-one days ago, Finn Balor made debut in NXT by coming to the aid of Hideo Itami. Balor went on to become the face of the WWE’s developmental brand.  He broke Neville’s record as the longest-reigning NXT champion by holding the title for 292 days before dropping it to Samoa Joe.

For those 631 days, the Internet Wrestling Community has tried to predict when Balor would make his main roster debut. Below are some samples of what was said on the Interwebs during that time:

“He’s going to drop the title to Joe at NXT Takeover: London and then come up.”

Nope.

“Just wait until Balor shows up in the Royal Rumble.”

Hi AJ Styles.

“The Demon vs. The Undertaker at WrestleMania 32. #BookIt.”

Pieces of Shane McMahon are still on the 45 yard line.

“Gallows and Anderson have arrived. It’s time for the Balor Club.”

Instead we have this

When Joe became the first guy to defeat Balor’s Demon persona, it was apparent that his time in NXT was coming to an end. All that was left was a dream match with Shinsuke Nakamura, who went over Balor clean in the middle of the ring. There was nothing left for Balor to do in NXT.

He was positioned as the leader of the next wave of talent by HHH, but many wondered how Vince would treat Balor on the main roster. After all, he’s billed at 190 pounds and we all know the affection Mr. McMahon has for gigantic dudes.

Balor was “selected” ahead of Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns (exhibit A and B of giant guys Vince loves), but there were still plenty of reasons to be skeptical about how he would be presented on the flagship show.

After the first Raw of the post-draft era, the IWC can be rest assured that Balor is going to be treated just fine. Not only did he pin Rusev clean in the middle to qualify for the main event, he later pinned Roman CLEAN IN THE EFFING MIDDLE.

No ref bumps, no distractions from Anderson and Gallows and certainly no Pokemon Go antics from R-Truth. Just a slingblade, a drop kick of death and a Coup de Grace.

Typically Pittsburgh is one of the worst wrestling crowds in the country due to their noise level, but on Monday night they made Finn Balor feel like a superstar, which is exactly what needed to happen.

Stealing the spotlight

There have been plenty of times when Dolph Ziggler was extremely over. His Money in the Bank cash-in on the 2013 post-WrestleMania edition of Raw is a legendary moment. He scored the winning pinfall in the huge main event of the 2014 Survivor Series PPV. He’s one of the best in-ring performers in the company, but it feels like his time as a main event player, at least with this current character, has passed.

Every time that Ziggler was given a push, it was immediately countered with a negative force. He either lost momentum due to injury (concussion that cost him the title in 2013) or bad booking by creative (remember his the Kiss me Arse match vs. Sheamus? Or the awful stretch of television he had with Lana that ultimately went nowhere?).

After his win at Survivor Series in 2014, Ziggler has slowly tumbled down the mid-card.

giphy

So on Tuesday night when he hit Styles with a superkick, it seemed like a transitional spot for Styles to kick out of, but instead the ref’s hand slapped three. It was more shocking, IMO, than Balor pinning Reigns clean on Raw. Ziggler has no momentum at all. He’s coming off of a cold feud against Baron Corbin that lasted forever and he just admitted on the Draft Central show that he “hasn’t been stealing the show lately.”

I’m sure Ambrose and Ziggler will put on a fine match at SS, but Corbin or Crews would have been a better choice than Ziggler unless we’re about to see a big makeover for the “Show Off.”

Which show was better this week?

Rollins

Time to “Go Home”

– What an incredible match by Sasha Banks and Charlotte. This was the match that the division needed last year to really get the Women’s Revolution’s off of the ground. The action was solid throughout and there were spots that really grabbed the audience’s attention (Sasha’s suicide dive, Charlotte’s moonsault from the top rope to the floor, the Eddie Guerrero tribute from Sasha and the final sequence). While it was a bit shocking to see Sasha win the title before SummerSlam, it was still a special moment and gets my pick for Match of the Week.

– At first I cringed when Foley announced that the name of the new title on Raw is going to be the WWE Universal championship, but by the end of the show I actually found myself liking it. It has a nice ring to it.

– Roman Reigns has been pinned clean in three out of his last four matches. Don’t do drugs kids.

– I couldn’t tell if Randy Orton was legit hurt or just selling his shoulder after Miz threw him to the outside. Well done Mr. Orton.

– Neville has officially entered bathroom break territory. Please just put him against some cruiserweights ASAP.

– Curtis Axel’s face was crushed by Neville’s Red Arrow.

– Nia Jax really should be using the jackknife powerbomb as her finisher. It looks way more devastating than her leg drop.

– Ryder was a botch machine this week.

– The Pokemon Go angle with the Golden Truth was pretty damn funny. The conclusion to the night long angle was pretty satisfying and it sets up a program with the Shining Stars.

– That was a nice reaction for Heath Slater, he’s starting to get over.

– Why the hell is Rhyno on SmackDown?

– Eva Marie’s new entrance is awesome, such a smart decision to send her out there without a live mic and it generated some serious heat.

– Fandango responds to Orton’s comment from Battleground:

– The jobber who faced Braun Strowman is my hero.

– Alexa Bliss has improved so much, her reaction to Eva Marie’s ridiculous entrance made me laugh out loud.

– Styles’ live reaction to Anderson and Gallows being drafted was similar to everyone else who was watching live:

Twitter: @ScottDargis

WWE: How Alexa Bliss Found Her Voice

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Before Alexa Bliss defends her Raw Women’s Championship this Sunday at the Tables, Ladders and Chairs Pay-Per-View (this Sunday live at 8 p.m. ET on WWE Network) I had the chance to talk with her about the process of developing the Alexa Bliss character, what it was like to have cameras around her house for “Total Divas” and of course, the world famous Larry-Steve

Me: “So what game did Larry-Steve pick for you to download on the [Nintendo] Switch?”

Alexa: “Mario! The Rabbit Kingdom. I was trying to find a game and all of a sudden Larry-Steve jumped on my lap and just started moving the Switch, so I was like I have to get this on video. He was doing it for a lot longer, but I only caught a couple seconds on video.”

@larry_steve_ helping me figure out which game to download next on my @nintendo #switch

A post shared by Alexa_Bliss (@alexa_bliss_wwe_) on

“Are you a big gamer, or did you see someone else with the Switch and said to yourself “I need one of those”?

“No, I love video games. So my fiancé and I went through this phase recently where we got all of the older gaming systems. We have this box that plays old Sega and Nintendo games. We have the original Playstation, recently just got a Game Boy. We have an Xbox a PS4 Pro and the Super Nintendo that just came out.”

“I got the Switch back in March and it’s a life-saver on my commute”

“Oh it’s the best. It seriously saves my life when it comes to traveling because I get so bored so easily, especially when a plane doesn’t have WiFi … ughhhh I die.”

“When you did an interview with ESPN a few months back you mentioned that you got Larry-Steve because of Total Divas, which made me wonder if getting a pig was something you’ve always wanted to do, or if this was a spur of the moment decision because of the show?”

“I’ve always wanted a pig. I grew up in Ohio, in Grove City, which is a farmy place. A lot of people there have farm animals and I’ve always wanted a pig because they’re super cute and I know they have a risk of getting up to 500 pounds, but whatever.

I actually pitched the storyline for Total Divas of me getting a pig and then my fiancé telling me that I can’t have it and then I’d have to give him back. You know, this whole drama thing.

So I get Larry-Steve and I have him for like two days and then I called Matt and said I’m not giving this pig back. I was like I can’t, he’s too cute and he’s deaf!

I was like he won’t hear the dogs barking at him. He was like what if he gets really big, I was like that’s 500 pounds of love. So I did the whole pouty thing and then he was like it’s your call, you make the decision. The whole I don’t want you to, so you probably shouldn’t, but I’m going to tell you that you can. And I totally took it as OK, I’m going to get him.

They get along so well. Matt loves him. He’s become the baby of the family. He knows it.

He’s like a child. He’s on a schedule. He wakes up every morning at 7. He sleeps in a Pack ‘n Play [crib]. He eats at 7:30. He naps at 2 and if you don’t put him in his crib to nap at 2, he will go lay by his bed. He wakes up, gets more food, will walk around the house, play for an hour to an hour and a half and then he’ll go back to bed.

“He sounds really easy to take care of”

“He’s so easy to take care of. As long as you can get his schedule down, because if not, he gets really grumpy.”

“Grumpy! How do you know that he’s grumpy?”

“Yeah because he’ll go “oink, oink, oink” all of the time and start pushing you. When he gets grumpy you know and then he’ll try to bite your toe, but that’s only if he’s grumpy.”

“Because [spoiler alert] Total Divas is a pseudo-reality, did you find yourself having to adjust to how you acted in front of the camera because you’re so used to playing a specific type of character in front of one?”

“I had a little bit of an adjustment period for sure because I’m so used to when the camera is on, I turn into Alexa Bliss, this mean, attitudy character. So I had to get out of that because our first filming was at TV. So I’m in a work environment and it was just a different camera, so as soon as the camera came on I was thinking ‘wait I can’t be that way, I have to be me.’

There were times where we’re at home making breakfast and there’s cameras there and I feel so weird because you have to open up to the cameras, but still act natural.

It was very different, but I had a lot of fun with it.”

*** Season 7 of Total Divas Premieres Wednesday, November 1 at 9 p.m. ET on E! ***

“You’ve talked about your transition from NXT to the main roster before and how you needed to turn up the persona that you found in NXT, but what helped you find the character’s voice? Was there a light bulb moment where you realized that this is it when you were with Blake and Murphy?

“I watched back our first few NXT matches together when I was managing them and realized that I was just silent. I wasn’t doing anything, I wasn’t saying anything. I was just looking at them in silence. And I was like hmmm, well that’s nothing.

I remember specifically trying more and more to be mean and I was trying to think of a character that’s relatable and I was like oh my gosh, a mean girl from high school. Everyone knows her. Everyone had one. Some people were her and no matter how mean she was, you still voted for her for homecoming queen.

I was like I want to be that girl because I knew that girl in high school. I knew a few of those girls in high school. I knew that everyone did. So that was my main motivation was to be that girl.

I get my inspiration from movies and a lot of the time I’ll actually people-watch when I’m at the airport. William Regal told us to people-watch because you can get your best motivation from them. I’ll notice little mannerisms that irritate me and I know they will irritate other people.

“How long did it take you to be comfortable in front of the camera as that character? Was it something you had to workshop a lot to get to that point?

“To get it started was a long process, but once it clicked, it was super easy. It’s just another part of me now and it’s been so much fun to play around with.”

“The saying is the best characters in this business are an extension of who the actual person is, but turned up to an 11, so is there any part of your actual personality in the character?”

“Oh god, none of it (laughs).”

“See that’s really interesting because you’re so comfortable playing the character, but it’s not you at all.”

“So I remember watching ‘My Date with Marilyn’ and watching the scene where she’s just super shy and super timid and then she asks somebody ‘do you want me to become her?’ And then she goes into Marilyn [Monroe]-mode and people start swarming her. She becomes this confident, sexy woman and I feel like it’s pretty much the same kind of thing. It’s something that you just switch into.

I’ve always wanted to do acting and wanted to explore that route and I feel like this has been the most fun part of doing what I get to do. Being able to transition into a completely different character.”

“So your match coming up with Mickie James this weekend; in another era this probably would have been a depends on a pole match …”

“(laughs)”

“But it’s just going to be a normal one-on-one match, even though in the build-up for it, you’ve been so aggressive in promos and backstage segments that it could have warranted a stipulation in storyline. Would you prefer a stipulation match, or are you OK with it being a regular match?”

“I’m OK with it being a normal one-on-one [match]. Of course stipulations are always cooler and more fun, but I feel like if we were to do a stipulation match it would have to be something that was driven towards the storyline that we’re doing right now.

I’m talking about her being old, so it should be like a walker match.”

Twitter: @ScottDargis

There’s a new playable character in WWE 2K18 and it’s … Colonel Sanders!?

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During the “Hell in a Cell” Pay-Per-View last night, it was announced that Colonel Sanders will be a playable character in the WWE 2K18 video game.

The announcement came during a segment in which the world was introduced to Colonel Angle Sanders who promptly took care of his rival, the Puppers Cluckers Chicken.

If you want to see an extended look of Colonel Sanders in WWE 2K18, you can watch him face off against Puppers Cluckers Chicken on UpUpDownDown this Thursday (October 12th).

WWE 2K18’s launch date is October 17th.