Ambrose
WWE

WWE Raw and SmackDown recap: A heel turn #OuttaNowhere?

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After last week’s thunderous start to the brand extension, Raw and SmackDown settled down a bit this week, which is perfectly acceptable. It’s not every week that you can have four excellent matches, including a title change and a shocking upset on Monday night…we just won’t talk about last week’s show on Tuesday night.

I don’t want to waste your time with a pointless intro because there’s 1,700 words about professional wrestling underneath this paragraph, so I’ll give you a pointless gif instead:

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Heelbrose

When Dolph Ziggler won the six-pack challenge last week to become the number one contender for the WWE world title, I wondered how creative was going to build the babyface vs. babyface program. This moment seemed like an ideal time to give Ziggler’s character a makeover and begin a slow burn heel turn because Ambrose is the number three babyface on SmackDown (behind Mr. Cena and Mr. RKO).

So when the show opened with a promo segment between the blue brand’s main event at SummerSlam, it was time to see if one of the two would begin to slide into a heel role and IMO that’s exactly what happened, but it wasn’t Ziggler who came off like a bad guy.

In those few minutes, Ambrose showed why he could become the best heel in the entire company.  He was smug, he was confident, but not comically confident like AJ Styles. He was a dick because he told Ziggler the truth and made the Show Off look like a fool for all of the mistakes he’s made throughout his career. Ambrose also dropped the ultimate heel line: “I don’t give a damn what people think.”

Ziggler countered with the classic babyface line “I went to my first WWE live event when I was ____” but then followed up with a fiery face promo about how he was going to finally rise up and take the title from Ambrose, but then Heelbrose shut him down with his final line.

Then ish got confusing. Later on in the night when Ziggler faced Bray Wyatt in the main event for Ziggler’s spot against Ambrose at SummerSlam, the champ sat at the commentary desk and put over Ziggler. Ambrose avoided being critical of Ziggler’s decision to put his spot in the title match on the line and tried to make it seem like there wasn’t any beef between them, even though he verbally crushed Dolph earlier in the night. Maybe someone in the back told him that he needed to come off like more of a respectful face towards Ziggler? Whatever the case, Ambrose’s tone in the final segment was very different than what it was in the opening segment.

Ambrose is never going to be the top babyface on the show as long as Cena and Orton are around, so in order to differentiate himself from those two, it makes sense for him to show some heelish tendencies, especially with Orton playing a goofball face as opposed to his normal anti-hero tweener character.

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The Highway to Viperville

When Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton was announced for SummerSlam, Orton felt like nothing more than just another throw toy for the mayor of Suplex City, but then Lesnar’s bubble of invincibility was popped when he failed two drug tests for taking clomiphene, an anti-estrogen blocker, before his fight at UFC 200.

Due to Lesnar’s failure, the WWE could no longer promote The Beast’s victory over Mark Hunt, so when Lesnar made his return from one of his patented hiatuses, it was fair to wonder if he or Paul Heyman would address the controversy.

Well that didn’t happen. In fact, the only mention of the UFC was Heyman’s reference to the “Brocktagon.” Instead Heyman did his usual shtick while Lesnar bounced around in the ring, which has to be one of the easiest paydays in the history of the business. Heyman’s promo focused on the fact that Orton isn’t man enough to hit an RKO on his “client,” so you could probably guess what happened next.

Some people are going to be annoyed by the fact it only took two weeks for a SmackDown guy to show up on Raw, but this surprise attack was done beautifully. Foley and Stephanie rushing out from the back without entrance music or a spotlight made the moment feel genuine. The “security” guards rushing out from the back also added some depth to the segment. The little things get skipped over way too often, but on when they’re executed correctly, a good segment becomes an excellent segment.

The biggest takeaway from the closing angle on Raw for me was this: It finally feels like Orton is being booked correctly as a babyface. Even though he’s been very cheesy, bordering on a smiley babyface at times, Orton is as over as he’s ever been. When Lesnar showed up at SmackDown and hit the F5 on The Viper, you could hear a scattering of boos.

With the momentum that Orton has right now and the negativity that’s surrounding Lesnar in the real world, it might be best for business if The Viper hits an RKO #OuttaNowhere and becomes the first man to pin Lesnar since he beat The Undertaker at WrestleMania 30.

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John Cena gets the shovel

In the build to the first match between AJ Styles and John Cena, Styles said that he brought The Club along with him so he “wouldn’t get buried by Cena.” Well without The Club on SmackDown, that’s sort of what happened to Styles on Tuesday night.

Styles went on a heel rant that ended with a great line about being a winner:

But then Cena came back with one of his better promos in recent memory and made Styles look like a fool for all of the things he just said. Cena hit Styles in the gut with the proverbial shovel when he told him that Styles was in the WWE to “be a really good wrestler,” while putting over all of the extracurricular activities that he’s been participating in lately.

Even though it felt like Cena created a gap on the card between himself and Styles with his verbiage, Styles held his own here and came off like a slimy bad guy who knows how to always get his way. The crowd responded very positively towards Cena, which is easy to do when you make a four-year old kid in the front row part of your promo.

Sometimes wins and losses actually matter in professional wrestling and at SummerSlam, Styles could really use a clean win over John Cena. Cena won’t be hurt by the loss and if anything, it’ll help these positive reactions continue because if Tuesday night proved anything it’s that SuperCena gets booed and John Cena gets cheered.

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Roman Reigns: The True American Hero

When Finn Balor pinned Roman Reigns clean in the middle of the ring last week, Roman’s SummerSlam plans became a bit murky, but on Monday night they became crystal clear.

After Rusev beat Mark Henry clean (for the 13051 time), Rusev began to cut a promo on the Olympics and Reigns just couldn’t take it anymore (lol), so he confronted Rusev and put him down with a Superman Punch.

This is a PERFECT program for Reigns. Even though Rusev gets positive reactions when the WWE goes to smarky towns, the person who has played the American foil to Rusev’s foreign character has almost always gotten a very positive reaction. When Roman’s music hit on Monday, he wasn’t booed out of the building, so we’re making progress.

Listen, he’s still going to get lit up by the Brooklyn crowd, but this is a massive step in the right direction. Vince and Co. are stuck on the idea of keeping Reigns as a babyface and a nice run with the U.S. title might just do the trick especially if creative follows the John Cena formula and has Reigns do a series of open challenges with the title (which should culminate with Braun Strowman answering the challenge).

Which show was better this week:

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SmackDown was paced nicely this week, while Raw felt like a slow three hour show, which is never a good thing.

Time to “Go Home”

– I was a bit surprised with the small amount of time Balor got to speak before Rollins interrupted him. The promo between the two was above average and crowd responded positively to Balor’s fire on the mic, but it would have been nice for him to get a minute or two by himself in the ring.

– Ziggler’s Spirit Squad throwback gives me an excuse to put this in:

– In kayfabe, Ziggler is the biggest idiot in the locker room. Keep your title match bro.

– Even though the opening promo on Monday between Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Enzo Amore and Chris Jericho went for 21 minutes, I really enjoyed some of the one-liners that were dropped. Charlotte’s line about Enzo’s love life was a legit LMAO moment that almost caused me to choke on the nachos I just made.

– Another LMAO moment from Monday: Stephanie yelling at the security guards to get Orton out of the building: “He’s taking his shirt off, get him outta here!”

– American Alpha felt like an afterthought when SmackDown ended. The crowd seemed to get into their offense, but why didn’t they have an interview segment backstage before or after their match? Baffling.

– I can’t believe Chad Gable’s actual height (5’8”) was listed in his bio graphic.

– The new entrance graphics on SmackDown are fire af.

– I have no idea where they’re going with this Eva Marie “injury” angle, but color me intrigued.

– Glad to see that JeriKO might be coming together for an actual run as tag team partners. Kevin Owens is quickly becoming the most underutilized guy on the entire roster and a tag run with Jericho (who has been doing some of his best work in years) would be great for him.

– How much money would it take for you to get beat in a squash match by Brawn Strowman?

– What about Nia Jax?

– Styles saying “you don’t get desert before dinner” doesn’t help his soccer mom gimmick.

– I agree with all of the people on r/SquaredCircle (shout out!) about the diminishing impact of the suicide dive/spear through the ropes spot. It’s a very dangerous spot. Enzo, Big E and Sasha have flirted with disaster way too many times. It’s time to bench the move and only bust it out once or maybe twice a year. If you take the spot away from the crowd, they’ll respond better when it actually happens.

– The kid who held a fist up to support Cena deserves an Emmy.

– I may have to start watching Talking Smack (which btw is smart programming for the network):

– Too bad Bryan didn’t talk about the new member of the SmackDown roster: Apollo Creed.

Twitter: @ScottDargis

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

corbin
WWE
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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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